Knox’s Trials and Labors in the Ongoing Reformation in Scotland
This section consists of Chapters 7-9. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
From August 1560, when Knox was settled as minister of Edinburgh, at the establishment of the reformation,to December 1563, when he was acquitted from a charge of treason
In appointing the Protestant ministers to particular stations, a measure which engaged the attention of the privy council immediately after the conclusion of the civil war, the temporary arrangements that had been formerly made were in general confirmed, and our Reformer resumed his charge as minister of Edinburgh. For several months he had officiated as minister of St. Andrews, but in the end of April 1560, he left that place and returned to the capital, where he preached during the siege of Leith and the negotiations which issued in a peace.
Although the parliament had abolished the papal jurisdiction and worship and ratified the Protestant doctrine as laid down in the Confession of Faith, the Reformed Church was not yet completely organized in Scotland. Hitherto the Book of Common Order, used by the English Church at Geneva, had been generally followed as the rule of public worship and discipline. But this having been compiled for a single congregation, and for one that consisted chiefly of men of education, was found inadequate for the use of an extensive Church, composed of a multitude of confederate congregations. Our reformers were anxious to provide the means of religious instruction to the whole people in the kingdom, but they were very far from approving of the promiscuous admission of persons of all descriptions to the peculiar privileges of the Church of Christ. From the beginning, they were sensible of the great importance of ecclesiastical discipline, to the prosperity of religion, the maintenance of order, and the preservation of sound doctrine and morals. In the petition presented to parliament in August, the establishment of this was specially requested. And Knox, who had observed the great advantages which attended the observance of a strict discipline at Geneva, and the manifold evils which resulted from the want of it in England, insisted very particularly on this topic, in the discourses which he delivered from the book of Haggai during the sitting of parliament. The difficulties which the reformed ministers had to surmount before they could accomplish this important object began to present themselves at this early stage of their progress. When is considered that Calvin was subjected to a sentence of banishment from the senate of Geneva and exposed to a popular tumult before he could prevail on the citizens to submit to ecclesiastical discipline, we need not be surprised at the opposition ‘which our reformers met with in their endeavors to introduce it into Scotland. Knox’s warm exhortations on this head were first disregarded; he had the mortification to find his plan of Church polity derided as a “devout imagination,” by some the professors of the reformed doctrine, and the parliament dissolved without coming to any decision on this import point.
As the ministers, however, continued to urge the subject, and reasonableness of their demands could not be denied, the privy council, soon after the dissolution of the parliament, gave commission to Knox and four other ministers, who had formerly been employed along with him in composing the Confession, draw up a plan of ecclesiastical government. They immediately set about this task, with a diligence and care proportioned to their convictions of its importance. They “took not their example,” says Row, “from any kirk in the world, no, not from Geneva; but drew their plan from the Sacred Scriptures.” Having arranged the subject under different heads, they divided these among them, and, after they had finished their several parts, they met together and examined them with great attention, spending much time in reading and meditation on the subject and in earnest prayers for divine direction. When they had drawn up the whole in form, they laid it before the General Assembly, by whom it was approved, after they had caused some of its articles to be abridged. It was also submitted to the privy council, but, although many of the members highly approved of the plan, it was warmly opposed by others. This opposition did not arise from any difference of sentiment between them and the ministers respecting ecclesiastical government, but partly from aversion to the strict discipline which it appointed to be exercised against vice, and partly from reluctance to comply with its requisition for the appropriation of the revenues of the Popish Church to the support of the new religious and literary establishments. Though not formally ratified by the council, it was, however, subscribed by the greater part of the members, and as the sources of prejudice against it were well known, it was submitted to by the nation, and carried into effect in most of its ecclesiastical regulations. It is known in history by the name of the Book of Policy, or First Book of Discipline.
Considering the activity of Knox in constructing and recommending this platform, and the importance of the subject in itself, it cannot be foreign to our object to take a view of the form and order of the Protestant Church of Scotland, as delineated in the Book of Discipline and in other authentic documents of that period. The ordinary and permanent office-bearers of the Church were of four kinds: the minister, or pastor, to whom the preaching of the gospel and administration of the sacraments belonged; the doctor, or teacher, whose province it was to interpret Scripture and confute errors (including those who taught theology in schools and universities); the ruling elder who assisted the minister in exercising ecclesiastical discipline and government; and the deacon, who had the special oversight of the revenues of the church and the poor. But, besides these, it was found necessary at this time to employ some persons in extraordinary and temporary charges. As there was not a sufficient number of ministers to supply the different parts of the country that the people might not be left altogether destitute of public worship and instruction, certain pious persons, who received a common education, were appointed to read the Scriptures and the common prayers. These were called readers. In large parishes, persons of this description were also employed to relieve the ministers from a part of the public service. If they advanced in knowledge, they were encouraged to add a plain exhortations to the reading of the Scriptures. In this case they were called exhorters; but they were examined and admitted before entering upon this employment.
The same cause gave rise to another temporary expedient. Instead of fixing all the ministers in particular charges, it was judged proper, after supplying the principal towns, to assign to the rest the superintendence of a large district, over which they were appointed regularly to travel, for the purpose of preaching, planting churches, and inspecting the conduct of ministers, exhorters, and readers. These were called superintendents. The number originally proposed was ten; but, owing to the scarcity of proper persons, or rather to the want of necessary funds, there were never more than five appointed. The deficiency was supplied by commissioners, or visitors, appointed from time to time by the General Assembly.
None was allowed to preach, or to administer the sacraments, till he was regularly called to this employment. Persons were invested with the pastoral office in the way of being freely elected by the people, examined by the ministers, and publicly admitted in the presence of the congregation. On the day of admission, the minister who presided, after preaching a sermon suited to the occasion, put a number of questions to the candidate, to satisfy the Church as to his soundness in the faith, his willingness to undertake the charge, the purity of his motives, and his resolution to discharge the duties of the office with diligence and fidelity. Satisfactory answers having been given to these questions, and the people having signified their adherence to their former choice, the person was admitted and set apart by prayer, without the imposition of hands; and the service was concluded with an exhortation, the singing of a psalm, and the pronouncing of the blessing. Superintendents were admitted in the same way as other ministers. The affairs of each congregation were managed by the minister, elders, and deacons, who constituted the kirk-session, which met regularly once a week, and oftener if business required. There was a meeting, called the weekly exercise, or prophesying, held in every considerable town, consisting of the ministers, exhorters, and learned men in the vicinity, for expounding the Scriptures. This was afterwards converted into the presbytery, or classical assembly. The superintendent met with the ministers and delegated elders of his district twice a year in the provincial synod, which took cognizance of ecclesiastical affairs within its bounds. And the General Assembly, which was composed of ministers and elders commissioned from the different parts of the kingdom, met twice, sometimes thrice, in a year, and attended to the interests of the national Church.
Public worship was conducted according to the Book of Common Order, with a few variations adapted to the state of Scotland. On Sabbath days, the people assembled twice for public worship, and to promote the instruction of the ignorant, catechising was substituted for preaching in the afternoon. In towns, a sermon was regularly preached on one day of the week besides Sabbath, and on almost every day the people had an opportunity of hearing public prayers and the reading of the Scriptures. Baptism was never dispensed unless it was accompanied with preaching or catechising. The Lord’s Supper was administered four times a year in towns, and there were ordinarily two “ministrations,” one at an early hour of the morning, and another later in the day. The sign of the cross in baptizing, and kneeling at the Lord’s table, were condemned and laid aside, and anniversary holidays were wholly abolished. We shall afterwards have occasion to advert to the discipline under which offenders were brought.
The compilers of the First Book of Discipline paid particular attention to the state of education. They required that a school should be erected in every parish, for the instruction of the youth in the principles of religion, grammar, and the Latin language. They proposed that a college should be erected in every “notable town,” in which logic and rhetoric should be taught, along with the learned languages. They seem to have had it in their eye to revive the system adopted by some of the ancient republics, in which the youth were considered as the property the public rather than of their parents, by obliging the nobility and gentry to educate their children, and by providing the public expense for the education of the children of the poor who discovered talents for learning. Their regulations for three national universities discover an enlightened regard to interests of literature, and may suggest hints which deserve attention in the present age. If these were not reduced practice, the blame cannot be imputed to the reformed ministers, but to the nobility and gentry, whose avarice defeated the execution of their plans.
To carry these important measures into effect, permanent funds were requisite, and for these it was natural to look to the patrimony of the Church. The hierarchy had been abolished, the Popish clergy excluded from all religious services by alterations which the Parliament had introduced, and, whatever provision it was proper to allot for the dismissed incumbents during life, it was unreasonable that they should continue to enjoy those emoluments which were attached to offices for which they had been found totally unfit. No successors could be appointed to them, and there was not any individual or class of men in the nation who could justly claim a title to rents of their benefices. The compilers of the Book of Discipline, therefore, proposed that the patrimony of the Church should be appropriated, in the first instance, to the support of new ecclesiastical establishment. Under this head they included the ministry, the schools, and the poor. For the ministers they required that such “honest provision” should be made as would give “neither occasion of solicitude, neither yet of insolencie and wantonnesse.” In ordinary cases, they thought that forty bolls of meal, and twenty-six bolls of malt, with a reasonable sum of money to purchase other necessary articles of provision for his family, was an adequate stipend for a minister. To enable superintendents to defray the extraordinary expenses of traveling in the discharge of their duty, six chalders of bear, nine chalders of meal, three chalders of oats, and six hundred merks in money were thought necessary as an annual stipend. The salaries of professors were fixed from one to two hundred pounds, and the mode of supporting the poor was left undetermined, until means should be used to suppress “stubborne and idle beggars,” and to ascertain the number of the really necessitous in each parish. The stipends of ministers were to be collected by the deacons from the tithes; but all illegal exactions were to be previously abolished, and measures taken to relieve the laborers of the ground from the oppressive manner in which the tithes had been gathered by the clergy, or by those to whom they had farmed them. The revenues of bishoprics, and of cathedral and collegiate churches, with the rents arising from the endowments of monasteries and other religious foundations, were to be divided and appropriated to the support of the universities or of the churches within their bounds.
Nothing could be more unpalatable than doctrine of this kind to a considerable number of the Protestant nobility and gentry. They had for some time fixed a covetous eye on the rich revenues of the Popish clergy. Some of them had seized upon church lands or retained the tithes in their own hands. Others had taken long leases of them from the clergy for small sums of money and were anxious to have these private bargains legalized. Hence their aversion to have the Book of Discipline ratified, hence the poverty and the complaints of the ministers and the languishing state of the universities. The Swiss Reformer, by his eloquence and his firmness, enabled his countrymen to gain a conquest over their avarice, which was more honorable to them than any of their other victories, when he prevailed on them to appropriate the whole revenues of the Popish establishment to the support of the Protestant Church and seminaries of literature. But it was not so easy a matter to manage the turbulent and powerful barons of Scotland, as it was to sway the minds of the burgomasters of Zurich. When we consider, however, the extent of the establishments proposed by our reformers, including the support of the ministry, of parochial schools, of city colleges, and of national universities, we cannot regard the demand which they made on the funds voted to the Church as extravagant or unreasonable. They showed themselves disinterested by the moderate share which they asked for themselves, and the least that we can say of their plan is that it was worthy of a more enlightened and liberal age, in which it might have met with rulers more capable of appreciating its utility and better disposed to carry it into execution.
It is peculiarly pleasing to observe the restoration of religion and of letters going hand in hand in our native country. Everywhere, indeed, the Reformation had the most powerful influence, direct and remote, on the general promotion of literature. It aroused the human mind from the lethargy in which had slumbered for ages, released it from the fetters of implicit pith and blind obedience to human authority, and stimulated it to the exertion of its powers in the search of truth. It induced the learned to study with care the original languages in which the sacred books were written, and it diffused knowledge among the illiterate, by laying open the Scriptures, and calling on all to examine them for themselves. The unintelligible jargon which had long infested the schools began to be discarded. Controversies were now decided by appeals to Scripture and to common sense, and the disputes which were eagerly maintained led to the improvement of the art of reasoning, and to a more rational method of communicating knowledge. Superstition and credulity being undermined, the spirit of inquiry was soon directed to the discovery of the true laws of nature, as well as the genuine doctrines of revelation.
In the south of Europe, the revival of letters preceded the reformation of religion, and materially facilitated its progress. In the north, this order was reversed, and Scotland in particular must date the origin of her literary acquirements from the first introduction of the Protestant opinions. As the one gained ground, the other was brought forward. We have already seen that the Greek language began to be studied almost as soon as the light of Reformation dawned upon this country, .and I have now to state, that the first school for teaching the Hebrew language in Scotland was opened immediately after the establishment of the Protestant Church. Hebrew was one of the branches of education appointed by the Book of Discipline to be taught in the reformed seminaries, and Providence had furnished a person who was well qualified for that task which those who filled the chairs in our universities were totally unfit to undertake.
The person to whom I refer was John Row. After finishing his education at St. Andrews, and practicing for some time as an advocate before the consistorial court there, he left the country about the year 1550, with the view of prosecuting his studies to greater advantage on the Continent. Within a short time he received the degree of Doctor of Laws from two Italian universities. He did not, however, confine himself to one branch of study, but, improving the opportunity which he enjoyed, made himself master of the Greek and Hebrew Languages. His reputation as a lawyer being high, the Scottish clergy employed him as agent to manage some of their causes before the court of Rome. This introduced him to the friendship of Guido Ascanio Sforza, Cardinal of Sancta Flora, and to the acquaintance of two sovereign pontiffs, Julius III and Paul IV. Had he remained in Italy, it is highly probable that he would soon have attained to honorable preferment in the Church, but having lost his health, he determined in 1558 to return to his native country. The reigning pope had heard, with deep concern, of the progress which the new opinions were making in Scotland, and, as he had great confidence in Row’s talents, appointed him his nuncio, with instructions to use his utmost exertions to oppose them. When he came home, he endeavored for some time to discharge his commission, but despairing of success, and foreseeing the confusions in which the country was about to be involved, he resolved on returning to Italy. From this resolution he was diverted by the prior of St. Andrews, who admired his learning and conceived good hopes of his conversion from the candor which he displayed in the management of religious controversy. His constancy was soon after shaken by the discovery of the imposture which the clergy attempted to practice at Musselburgh, and, having held several conferences with Knox, he became a complete convert to the Protestant faith. Upon the establishment of the Reformation, he was admitted minister of Perth, and, at the recommendation of his brethren, began to give lessons in the Hebrew language to young men who were placed under his tuition.
The interests of literature in Scotland were not a little promoted at this time by the return of Buchanan to his native country. That accomplished scholar, since his flight in 1535, had visited the most celebrated seminaries on the Continent, greatly improved his stock of learning, and given ample proof of those talents which, in the opinion of posterity as well as of contemporaries, have placed him indisputably at the head of modern Latin poets. The reception which he obtained from countrymen evinced that they were not incapable of estimating his merits, and the satisfaction with which he spent the remainder of his life among them, after he had enjoyed the society of the most learned men in Europe, is a sufficient proof they had already made no inconsiderable advances in the acquisition of polite literature.
We are apt to form false and exaggerated notions of the rudeness of our ancestors. Scotland was, indeed, at that period, as she is still at the present day, behind many of the southern countries in the cultivation of some of the fine arts, and she was a stranger to that refinement of manners which has oftener been concealment to vice than an ornament to virtue. But that her inhabitants were “men unacquainted with the pleasures of conversation, ignorant of arts and civility, and corrupted beyond a usual rusticity by a dismal fanaticism, which rendered them incapable of all humanity or improvement,” is an assertion which argues either inexcusable ignorance or deplorable prejudice. Will this character apply to such men as Buchanan, Knox, Row, Willock, Balnaves, Erskine, Maitland, Glencairn, and James Stewart, not to name many others; men who excelled in their respective ranks and professions, who had received a liberal education, traveled into foreign countries, conversed with the best company, and, in addition to their acquaintance with ancient learning, could speak the most polite languages of modern Europe? Perhaps some of our literati, who entertain such a diminutive idea of the taste and learning of those times, might have been taken by surprise, had they been set down at a table of one of our Scottish reformers, surrounded by a circle of his children and pupils, where the conversation was all carried on in French, and the chapter of the Bible, at family worship, was read by the boys in French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Perhaps they might have blushed, if the book had been put into their hands, and they had been required to perform a part of the exercises. Such, however, was the common practice in the house of John Row. Nor was the improvement of our native tongue neglected at that time. David Ferguson, minister of Dunfermline, was celebrated for his attention to this branch of composition. He had not enjoyed the advantage of a university education, but, possessing a good taste and lively fancy, was very successful in refining and enriching the Scottish language, by his discourses and writings.
The first meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held at Edinburgh on the twentieth of December, 1560. It consisted of forty members, only six of whom were ministers. Knox was one of these, and he continued to sit in most of the meetings of that judicatory until the time of his death. Its deliberations were conducted at first with great simplicity and unanimity. It is a singular circumstance that there were seven different meetings of Assembly without a moderator or president. But as the number of members increased, and business became more complicated, a moderator was appointed to be chosen at every meeting, and he was invested with authority to maintain order. The first person who occupied that place was John Willock, superintendent of Glasgow and the West. Regulations were also enacted concerning the constituent members of the court, the causes which ought to come before them, and the mode of procedure.
In the close of this year, our Reformer suffered a heavy domestic loss by the death of his valuable wife, who, after sharing the hardships of exile along with her husband, was removed from him just when he had obtained a comfortable settlement for his family. He was left with the charge of two young children, in addition to his other cares. His mother-in-law was still with him, but though he took pleasure in her religious conversation, the dejection of mind to which she was subject, and which all his efforts could never completely cure, rather increased than lightened his burden. His acute feelings were severely wounded by this stroke, but he endeavored to moderate his grief by the consolations which he administered to others, and by application to public duty. He had the satisfaction of receiving, on this occasion, a letter from his much respected friend Calvin, in which expressions of great esteem for his deceased partner were mingled with condolence for his loss.
I may take this opportunity of mentioning, that Knox, with the consent of his brethren, consulted the Genevan reformer in several difficult questions which occurred respecting the settlement of the Scottish Reformation, and that a number of letters passed between them on this subject.
Anxieties on a public account were felt by Knox along with domestic distress. The Reformation had hitherto advanced with a success equal to his most sanguine expectations, and, at this time, no opposition was publicly made to the new establishment. But matters were still in a very critical state. There were a party in the nation, by no means inconsiderable in numbers and power, who remained addicted to Popery; and, though they had given way to the torrent, they anxiously waited for an opportunity to embroil the country in another civil war, for restoration of the ancient religion. Queen Mary, and her husband, the King of France, had refused to ratify the late treaty and dismissed the deputy sent by the parliament, with of the highest displeasure at the innovations which they presumed to introduce. A new army was preparing in France for the invasion of Scotland against the spring; emissaries were sent, in the meantime, to encourage and unite the Roman Catholics, and it was doubtful if the Queen of England would subject herself to new expense and odium, by protecting them from a second attack.
The danger was not unperceived by our Reformer, who tired to impress the minds of his countrymen with its magnitude, and to excite them speedily to complete the settlement of religion throughout the kingdom, which, he was persuaded, would prove the principal bulwark against the assaults of their adversaries. His admonitions were now listened to with attention by many who had formerly treated them with indifference. The threatened storm, however, blew over, in consequence of the death of the French king, but this necessarily led to a measure which involved the Scottish Protestants in a new struggle, and exposed the Reformed Church to dangers less obvious and striking, but, on that account, not less to be dreaded than open violence and hostility. This was an invitation given by the Protestant nobility to their young queen, who, on the nineteenth of August, 1561, arrived in Scotland, and assumed the reins of government into her own hands.
The education which Mary had received in France, whatever embellishments it added to her beauty, was the very worst which can be conceived for fitting her to rule her native country in the present juncture. Of a temper naturally violent, the devotion which she had been accustomed to see paid to her personal charms, rendered her extremely impatient of contradiction. Habituated to the splendor and gallantry of the most luxurious and dissolute court in Europe, she could not submit to those restraints which the severer manners of her subjects imposed; and while they took offense at the freedom of her behavior, she could not conceal the antipathy and disgust which she felt at theirs. Full of high notions of royal prerogative, she regarded the late proceedings in Scotland as a course of rebellion against her legitimate authority. Nursed from her infancy in a blind attachment to the Roman Catholic faith, every means had been employed before she left France to strengthen this prejudice, and to inspire her with aversion to the religion which had been embraced by her people. She was taught that it would be the great glory of her reign to reduce her kingdom to the obedience of the Roman see, and to co-operate with the Popish princes on the Continent in extirpating heresy. If she forsook the religion in which she had been educated, she would forfeit their powerful friendship; if she persevered in it, she might depend upon their assistance to enable her to chastise her rebellious subjects, and to prosecute her claims to the English crown against a heretical usurper.
With these fixed prepossessions, Mary came into Scotland, and she adhered to them with singular pertinacity to the end of her life. To examine the subjects of controversy between the Papists and Protestants, with the view of ascertaining on which side the truth lay—to hear the reformed preachers, or permit them to lay before her the grounds of their faith, even in the presence of the clergy whom she had brought along with her; to do anything, in short, which might lead to a doubt in her mind respecting the religion in which she had been brought up—were compliances against which she had formed an unalterable determination. As the Protestants were in possession of power, it was necessary for her to temporize, but she resolved to withhold her ratification of the late proceedings, and to embrace the first favorable opportunity to overturn them, and re-establish the ancient system.
The reception which she met with on landing in Scotland was flattering, but an occurrence that took place soon after, damped the joy which had been expressed, and prognosticated future jealousies and confusion. The deputies sent to France with the invitation from the nobles, could not promise her more than the private exercise of her religion; but her uncles, by whom she was accompanied, wishing to take advantage of the spirit of loyalty which had been displayed since their arrival, insisted that she should cause the Roman Catholic rites to be performed with all publicity. Influenced by their opinion, and willing to give her subjects an early proof of her firm determination to adhere to the ancient faith, Mary directed preparations to be made for the celebration of a solemn mass in the chapel of Holyroodhouse, on the first Sabbath after her arrival. Service had not been performed in Scotland since the conclusion of the civil war, and was prohibited by an act of the parliament. So great was the horror with which the Protestants viewed its restoration, and the alarm which they felt at finding it countenanced by their queen, that the first rumor of the design excited expressions of strong discontent, which would have burst into an open tumult, had not some of the leading men among the Protestants interfered and exerted their authority in repressing the zeal of the multitude. From regard to public tranquility, and reluctance to offend the queen at her first return to her native kingdom, Knox used his influence in a private conversation to allay the fervor of the more zealous reformers, who were ready to prevent the service by force. But he was not less alarmed at the precedent than his brethren were, and, having exposed the evils of idolatry on the following Sabbath, he concluded his sermon by saying that one mass was more fearfull unto him than if ten thousand armed enemies were landed in ony parte of the realme, of purpose to suppress the whole religioun.”
At this day, we are apt to be struck with surprise at the conduct of our ancestors, to treat their fears as visionary, or at least highly exaggerated, and summarily to pronounce them guilty of the same intolerance of which they complained in their adversaries. Persecution for conscience’ sake is so odious, and the least approach to it is so dangerous, that we deem it impossible to express too great detestation of any measure which tends to countenance or seems to encourage it. But let us be just as well as liberal. A little reflection upon the circumstances in which our reforming fathers were placed may serve to abate our astonishment, and to qualify our censures. They were actuated by a strong abhorrence of Popish idolatry, a feeling which is fully justified by the spirit and precepts of Christianity; and the prospect of the land being again defiled by the revival of its impure rites produced on their minds a sensation, with which, from our ignorance and lukewarmness, as much as our ideas of religious liberty, we are incapable of sympathizing. But they were also influenced by a proper regard to their own preservation, and the fears which they entertained were not fanciful, nor the precautions which they adopted unnecessary.
The warmest friends of toleration and liberty of conscience (some of whom will not readily be charged with Protestant prejudices) have granted that persecution of the most sanguinary kind was inseparable from the system and spirit of Popery which was at that time dominant in Europe; and they cannot deny the inference that the profession and propagation of it were, on this account, justly subjected to penal restraints, as far, at least, as was requisite to prevent it from obtaining the ascendency, and from re-acting the bloody scenes which it had already exhibited. The Protestants of Scotland had these scenes before their eyes, and fresh in their recollection; and infatuated and criminal indeed would they have been, if, listening to the siren song of toleration, by which their adversaries, with no less impudence than artifice, now attempted to lull them asleep, they had suffered themselves to be thrown off their guard, and neglected to provide against the most distant approaches of the danger by which they were threatened. Could they be ignorant of the perfidious, barbarous, and unrelenting cruelty with which Protestants were treated in every Roman Catholic kingdom? In France, where so many of their brethren had been put to death, under the influence of the house of Guise; in the Netherlands, where such multitudes had been tortured, beheaded, hanged, drowned, or buried alive; in England, where the flames of persecution were but lately extinguished; and in Spain and Italy, where they still continued to blaze? Could they have forgotten what had taken place in their own country, or the perils from which they had themselves so recently and so narrowly escaped? “God forbid!” exclaimed the lords of the privy council, in the presence of Queen Mary, at a time when they were not disposed to offend her, “God forbid! that the lives of the faithful stood in the power of the Papists; for just experience has taught us what cruelty is in their hearts.”
Nor was this an event so incredible, or so unlikely to happen, as many seem to imagine. The rage for conquest on the Continent was now converted into a rage for proselytism; and steps had already been taken towards forming that league among the Popish princes, which had for its object the universal extermination of Protestants. The Scottish queen was passionately addicted to the intoxicating cup of which so many of “kings of the earth had drunk.” There were numbers in the nation who were similarly disposed. The liberty taken by the queen would soon be demanded for all who declared themselves Catholics. Many of those who had hitherto ranged under Protestant standard were lukewarm in the cause; the others had already suffered a sensible abatement since the arrival of their sovereign; and it was to be feared, that the favors of the court and the blandishments of an artful and accomplished princess would make proselytes of some, and lull others into security, while designs were carried on pregnant with ruin to the religion and liberties of the nation. In one word, the public toleration of the Popish worship was only a step to its re-establishment, and this would be the signal for kindling afresh the fires of persecution. It was in this manner that some of the wisest men in the kingdom reasoned at that time; and, had it not been for the uncommon spirit which then existed among the reformers, there is every reason to think that their predictions would have been realized.
To those who accuse the Scottish Protestants of displaying spirit of intolerance by which the Roman Catholics were distinguished, I would recommend the following statement of a French author, who had formed a more just notion of these transactions than many of our own writers: “Mary,” says he, “was brought up in France, accustomed to see Protestants burnt to death, and instructed in the maxims of her uncles, the Guises, who maintained that it was necessary to exterminate, without mercy, the pretended reformed. With these dispositions, she arrived in Scotland, which was wholly reformed, with the exception of a few lords. The kingdom received her, acknowledged her as their queen, and obeyed her in all things according to the laws of the country. I maintain, that, in the state of men’s spirits at that time, if a Huguenot queen had come to take possession of a Roman Catholic kingdom, with the slender retinue with which Mary went to Scotland, the first thing they would have done would have been to arrest her; if she had persevered in her religion, they wood have procured her degradation by the pope, thrown her into the Inquisition, and burnt her as a heretic. There is not an honest man who can deny this.”
After all, it is surely unnecessary to apologize for the restrictions which our ancestors were desirous of imposing on Queen Mary, to those who approve of the present constitution of Britain, according to which every Papist is excluded from succeeding to the throne, and the reigning monarch, by setting up mass in his chapel, would virtually forfeit his crown. Is Popery more dangerous now than it was two hundred and fifty years ago?
Besides his fears for the common cause, Knox had, at this time, grounds of apprehension as to his personal safety. The queen was peculiarly incensed against him on account of the active part which he had taken in the late revolution; the Popish clergy who left the kingdom had represented him as the ringleader of her factious subjects, and she had publicly declared, before she left France, that she was determined he should be punished. His book against female government was most probably the ostensible charge on which he was to be prosecuted; and, accordingly, we find him making application, through the English resident at Edinburgh, to secure the favor of Elizabeth, reasonably suspecting that she might be induced to abet the proceedings against him on this ground. But whatever perils he apprehended, from the personal presence of the queen, either to the public or to himself, he used not the smallest influence to prevent her being invited home. On the contrary, he concurred with his brethren in this measure, and also in using means to defeat a scheme which the Duke of Chastelherault, under the direction of the Archbishop of St. Andrews, had formed to exclude her from the government. But when the Prior of St. Andrews was sent to France with the invitation, he urged that her desisting from the celebration of mass should be one of the conditions of her return; and when he found him and the rest of the council disposed to grant her this liberty within her own chapel, he predicted that “her liberty would be their thraldom.”
In the beginning of September, only a few days after her arrival in Scotland, the queen sent for Knox to the palace, and held a long conversation with him, in the presence of her brother, the Prior of St. Andrews. Whether she did this of her own accord, or at the suggestion of some of her counselors, is uncertain, but she seems to have expected to awe him into submission by her authority, if not to confound him by her arguments. The bold freedom with which he replied to all her charges and vindicated his own conduct, convinced her that the one expectation was not more vain than the other; and the impression which she wished to make on him was left on her own mind.
She accused him of raising her subjects against her mother and herself; of writing a book against her just authority, which, she said, she would cause the most learned in Europe to refute; of being the cause of sedition and bloodshed, when he was in England; and of accomplishing his purposes by magical arts.
To these heavy charges Knox replied, that, if to teach the truth of God in sincerity, to rebuke idolatry, and exhort a people worship God according to his word, were to excite subjects to rise against their princes, then he stood convicted of that crime; for it had pleased God to employ him, among many others, to disclose unto that realm the vanity of the papistical religion, with the deceit, pride, and tyranny of the Roman antichrist. But if the true knowledge of God and his right worship were the most powerful inducements to subjects cordially to obey their princes (as they certainly were), then was he innocent. Her grace, he was persuaded, had at present as unfeigned obedience from the Protestants of Scotland, as ever her father, or any of her ancestors, had from those called bishops. With respect to what had been reported to her majesty concerning the fruits of his preaching in England, he was glad that his enemies laid nothing to his charge but what the world knew to be false. If they could prove, that, in any of the places where he had resided, there was either sedition or mutiny, he would confess himself to be a malefactor. But so far from this being the case, he was not ashamed to say, that in Berwick, where bloodshed had formerly been common among the military, God so blessed his weak labors, that there was as great quietness, during the time he resided in that town, as there was at present in Edinburgh. The slander of practicing magic (an art which he had always condemned), he could more easily bear, when he recollected that his master, Jesus Christ, had been defamed as one in league with Beelzebub. As to the book which seemed to have offended her majesty so highly, he owned that he wrote it, and he was willing that all the learned should judge of it. He understood that an Englishman had written against it, but he had not read his work. If that author had sufficiently confuted his arguments, and established the contrary opinion, he would confess his error, but to that hour he continued to think himself able to maintain the propositions affirmed in that book against any ten in Europe.
“You think, then, I have no just authority?” said the queen. “Please your majesty,” replied he, “learned men in all ages have had their judgments free, and most commonly disagreeing from the common judgment of the world; such also have they published both with pen and tongue; notwithstanding, they themselves have lived in the common society with others, and have borne patiently with the errors and imperfections which they could not amend. Plato, the philosopher, wrote his book on the commonwealth, in which he condemned many things that then were maintained in the world, and required many things to have been reformed; and yet, notwithstanding, he lived under such policies as then were universally received, without farther troubling of any state. Even so, madam, am I content to do, in uprightness of heart, and with a testimony of a good conscience.” He added that his sentiments on that subject should be confined to his own breast, and that, if she refrained from persecution, her authority would not be hurt, either by him or his book, “which was written most especially against that wicked Jesabel of England.”
“But ye speak of women in general,” said the queen. “Most true it is, madam; yet it appeareth to me that wisdom should persuade your grace never to raise trouble for that which to this day has not troubled your majesty, neither in person nor in authority, for of late years many things which before were held stable have been called in doubt; yea, they have been plainly impugned. But yet, madam, I am assured that neither Protestant nor Papist shall be able to prove that any such question was at any time moved, either in public or in secret. Now, madam, if I had intended to have troubled your estate, because ye are a woman, I would have chosen a time more convenient for that purpose than I can do now, when your presence is within the realm.”
Changing the subject, she charged him with having taught people to receive a religion different from that which was allowed by their princes; and she asked if this was not contrary to the divine command that subjects should obey their rulers. He replied that true religion derived its origin and authority, not from princes, but from God; that princes were often most ignorant on this point; and that subjects were not bound to frame their religious sentiments and practice according to the arbitrary will of their rulers, else the Hebrews ought to have conformed to the religion of Pharaoh, Daniel and his associates to that of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, and the primitive Christians to that of the Roman emperors. “Yea,” replied the queen, qualifying her assertion, “but none of these men raised the sword against their princes.” “Yet you cannot deny,” said he, “that they resisted; for those who obey not the command given them do in some sort resist.” “But they resisted not with the sword,” rejoined the queen, pressing home the argument. “God, madam, had not given unto them the power and the means.” “Think you,” said the queen, “that subjects, having the power, may resist their princes?” “If princes exceed their bounds, madam, no doubt they may be resisted, even by power. For no greater honor or greater obedience is to be to kings and princes than God has commanded to be given to father and mother. But the father may be struck with a frenzy, in which he would slay his children. Now, madam, if the children arise, join together, apprehend the father, take the sword from him, bind his hands, and keep him in prison, till the frenzy be over, think you, madam, that the children do any wrong? Even so, madam, is it with princes that would murder the children of God that are subject unto them. Their blind zeal is nothing but a mad frenzy; therefore, to take the sword them, to bind their hands, and to cast them into prison, till they be brought to a more sober mind, is no disobedience against princes, but just obedience, because it agreeth with the will of God.”
Mary, who had hitherto maintained her courage in reasoning, was completely overpowered by this bold answer; her countenance changed, and she remained in a silent stupor. Her brother spoke to her, and inquired the cause of her uneasiness, but she made no reply. Recovering herself at length, she said, “Well then, I perceive that my subjects shall obey you and not me, and will do what they please and not what I command; and so must I be subject to them, and not they to me.” “God forbid!” replied the Reformer, “that ever I take upon me to command any to obey me, or to set subjects at liberty to do whatever pleases them. But my travail is, that both princes and subjects may obey God. And think not, madam, that wrong is done you when you are required to be subject unto God; for it is he who subjects people under princes, and causes obedience to be given unto them. He craves of kings that they be as foster-fathers to his Church, and commands queens to be nurses to his people. And this subjection, madam, unto God and his Church, is the greatest dignity that flesh can get upon the face of the earth; for it shall raise them to everlasting glory.”
“But you are not the Church that I will nourish,” said the queen, “I will defend the Church of Rome; for it is, I think, the true Church of God.” “Your will, madam, is no reason, neither doth yourthought make the Roman harlot to be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. Wonder not, madam, that I call Rome an harlot, for that Church is altogether polluted with all kinds of spiritual fornication, both in doctrine and manners.” He added that he was ready to prove that the Roman Church had declined farther from the purity of religion taught by the apostles, than the Jewish Church had degenerated from the ordinances which God gave them by Moses and Aaron, at the time when they denied and crucified the Son of God. “My conscience is not so,” said the queen. “Conscience, madam, requires knowledge, and I fear that right knowledge you have none.” “But I have both heard and read.” “So, madam, did the Jews, who crucified Christ Jesus, read the law and the prophets, and heard the same interpreted after their manner. Have you heard any teach but such as the pope and cardinals have allowed? and you may be assured, that such will speak nothing to offend their own estate.”
“You interpret the Scriptures in one way,” said the queen evasively, “and they in another; whom shall I believe, and who shall be judge?” “You shall believe God, who plainly speaketh in his word,” replied the Reformer, “and farther than the word teacheth you, you shall believe neither the one nor the other. The word of God is plain in itself; and if there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, who is never contrary to himself, explains the same more clearly in other places, so that there can remain no doubt, but unto such as are obstinately ignorant.” As an example, he selected one of the articles in controversy between the Church of Rome and the Protestants, and was proceeding to show that the Popish doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass was destitute of all foundation in Scripture, but the queen, who was determined to avoid all discussion of the articles of her creed, interrupted him by saying that she was unable to contend with him in argument, but if she had those present whom she had heard, they would answer him. “Madam,” replied the Reformer, fervently, “would to God that the learnedest Papist in Europe, and he you would best believe, were present with your grace to sustain the argument, and that you would wait patiently to hear the matter reasoned to the end! For then, I doubt not, madam, you would hear the vanity of the papistical religion, and how little ground it hath in the word of God.” “Well,” said she, “you may perchance get that sooner than you believe.” “Assuredly, if ever I get that in my life, I get it sooner than I believe; for the ignorant Papist cannot patiently reason, and learned and crafty Papist will never come, in your audience, madam, to have the ground of their religion searched out. When you shall let me see the contrary, I shall grant myself to have been deceived in that point.”
The hour of dinner afforded an occasion for breaking off this singular conversation. At taking leave of her majesty the Reformer said, “I pray God, madam, that you may be as blessed within the commonwealth of Scotland, as ever Deborah was in the commonwealth of Israel.”
I have been the more minute in the narrative of this curious conference, because it affords the most satisfactory refutation of the charge that Knox treated Mary with rudeness and disrespect. For the same reason I shall lay before the reader a partial account of the subsequent interviews between them, from which we shall perceive that, though the Reformer addressed her with a plainness to which crowned heads are seldom accustomed, he never lost sight of that respect which was due to the person of his sovereign, nor of that decorum which became his own character.
The interview between the queen and the Reformer excited speculation, and different conjectures were formed as to its probable consequences. The Catholics, whose hopes now depended solely on the queen, were alarmed, lest Knox’s rhetoric should have shaken her constancy. The Protestants cherished the expectation that she would be induced to attend Protestant sermons, and that her religious prejudices would gradually abate. Knox indulged no such flattering expectations. He had made it his study, during the late conference, to discover the real character of the queen; and when some of his confidential friends asked his opinion of her, he told them that he was very much mistaken if she was not proud, crafty, obstinately wedded to the Popish Church, and averse to all means of instruction. Writing to Cecil, he says, “The queen neyther is, neyther shal be of our opinion; and, in very deed, her whole proceedings do declair that the cardinalle’s lessons are so deaplie printed in her heart, that the substance and the qualitie are like to perishe together. I wold be glad to be deceaved, but I fear I shal not. In communication with her, I espyed such craft as I have not found in such aige. Since, hath the court been dead to me and I to it.”
He resolved, therefore, vigilantly to watch her proceedings and to give timely warning of any danger which might result from them to the reformed interest; and the more that he perceived the zeal of the Protestant nobles to cool, and their jealousy to be laid asleep by the winning arts of the queen, the more frequently and loudly did he sound the alarm. Vehement and harsh as his expressions often were—violent, seditious, and insufferable as his sermons and prayers have been pronounced to be—I have no hesitation in saying that, as the public peace was never disturbed by them, so they were useful to the public safety, and a principal means of warding off for a time those confusions in which the country was afterwards involved, and which brought on the ultimate ruin of the infatuated queen. His uncourtly and rough manner was not, indeed, calculated to gain upon her mind (nor is there any reason to think that an opposite manner would have had this effect), and his admonitions often irritated her; but they obliged her to act with greater reserve and moderation, and they operated, to an indescribable degree in arousing and keeping awake the zeal and the fears of the nation, which, at that period, were the two great safeguards of the Protestant religion in Scotland. We may form an idea of the effect produced by his pulpit orations, from the account of the English ambassador, who was one of his constant hearers. “Where your honour,” says he, in a letter to Cecil, “exhorteth us to stoutness, I assure you the voice of one man is able, in an hour, to put more life in us than six hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.”
The Reformer was not ignorant that some of his friends thought him too severe in his language, nor was he always disposed to vindicate the expressions which he employed. Still, however, he was persuaded that the times required the utmost plainness; and he was afraid that snares lurked under the smoothness which was recommended and practiced by courtiers. Cecil having given him an advice on this head in one of his letters, Knox replied, “Men deliting to swym betwix two waters have often compleaned upon my severitie. I fear that that which men terme lenitie and dulceness, do bring upon themselves and others more fearful destruction, than hath ensewed the vehemency of any preacher within this realme.”
That abatement of zeal which he had dreaded from “the holy water of the court,” soon began to appear among the Protestant leaders. The general assemblies of the Church were a great eyesore to the queen, who was very desirous to have them put down. At the first General Assembly held after her arrival, the courtiers, through her influence, absented themselves, and when challenged for this, began to dispute the propriety of such conventions without her majesty’s pleasure. On this point there was sharp reasoning between Knox and Maitland, who was now made secretary of state. “Take from us the liberty of assemblies, and take from us the gospel,” said the Reformer. “If the liberty of the Church must depend upon her allowance or disallowance, we shall want not only assemblies, but also the preaching of the gospel.” It was proposed that the Book of Discipline should be ratified by the queen, but this was keenly opposed by the secretary. “How many of those that subscribed that book will be subject to it?” said he scoffingly. “All the godly,” it was answered. “Will the duke?” said he. “If he will not,” replied Lord Ochiltree, “I wish that his name were scraped, not only out of that book, but also out of our number and company; for to what end shall men subscribe, and never mean to keep word of that which they promise?” Maitland said, that many subscribed it, in fide parentum, implicitly. Knox replied that the scoff was as untrue as it was unbecoming; for the book was publicly read, and its different heads discussed, for a number of days, and no man was required to subscribe what he did not understand. “Stand content,” said one of the courtiers; “that book will not be obtained.” “And let God require the injury which the commonwealth shall sustain at the hands of those who hinder it,” replied the Reformer.
He was still more indignant at their management in settling the provision for the ministers of the Church. Hitherto they had lived chiefly on the benevolence of their hearers, and many of them had scarcely the means of subsistence, but repeated complaints having obliged the privy council to take up the affair, they came at last to a determination that the ecclesiastical revenues should be divided into three parts, that two of these should be given to the ejected Popish clergy, and that the third part should be divided between the court and the Protestant ministry! The persons appointed to “modify the stipends” were disposed to gratify the queen, and her demands were readily answered, while the sums allotted to the ministers were as ill paid as they were paltry and inadequate. “Weall!” exclaimed Knox, when he heard of this disgraceful arrangement, “if the end of this ordour, pretendit to be takin for sustentatioun of the ministers, be happie, my judgment failes me. I sic twa pairtis freely gevin to the devill, and the third mon be devyded betwix God and the devill. Who wald have thocht, that when Joseph reulled in Egypt, his brethren sould have travellit for victualles, and have returned with emptie sackes unto thair families? O happie servands of the devill, and miserabill servants of Jesus Christ, if efter this lyf thair wer not hell and heavin!” At a conference held on this subject, Maitland complained of the ingratitude of the ministers, who did not acknowledge the queen’s liberality to them. “Assuredly,” replied Knox with a derisive smile, “such as receive any thing of the queen are unthankfull, if they acknowledge it not; but whether the ministers be of that rank or not, I greatly doubt. Has the queen better title to that which she usurps, be it in giving to others, or in taking to herself, than such as crucified Christ had to divide his garments among them? Let the Papists who have the two parts, some that have their thirds free, and some that have gotten abbacies and feu-lands, thank queen; the poor preachers will not yet flatter for feeding their bellies. To your dumb dogs, formerly ten thousand was enough; but to the servants of Christ, that painfully preach his evangell, a thousand pound! how can that be sustained?” “These words,” he himself tells us, “were judged proud and intolerable, and engendered no small displeasure to the speaker.”
Knox gave vent to his feelings on this subject the more freely as his complaints could not be imputed to personal motives; for his own stipend, though moderate, was liberal when compared with those of the most of his brethren. From the time of his last return to Scotland, until the conclusion of the war, he had been indebted to the liberality of individuals for support of his family. After that period, he lodged in the house of David Forrest, a burgess of Edinburgh, from which he moved to the lodging which had belonged to Durie, abbot of Dunfermline. As soon as he began to preach statedly in the city, the town council assigned him an annual stipend of two hundred pounds, which he was entitled to receive quarterly, and they also paid his house rent and his board, during the time that he had resided with Forrest. Subsequent to the settlement made by the privy council, it would seem that he received, at least, a part of his income from the common fund allotted to the ministers of the Church; but the good town had still an opportunity of testifying their generosity, by supplying the deficiencies of the legal allowance. Indeed, the uniform attention of the town council to his external support and accommodation, was honorable to them, and deserves to be recorded to their commendation.
In the beginning of the year 1562, he went to Angus to preside in the election and admission of John Erskine of Dun as superintendent of Angus and Mearns. That respectable baron was one of those whom the first General Assembly declared “apt and able to minister,” and having already contributed in different ways to the advancement of the Reformation, he now devoted himself to the service of the Church, in a laborious employment, at a time when she stood eminently in need of the assistance of all the learned and pious. Knox had formerly presided at the installation of John Spotswood as superintendent of Lothian.
The influence of our Reformer appears from his being employed on different occasions to act as umpire and mediator in disputes of a civil nature among the Protestants. He was frequently requested to intercede with the town council in behalf of such of the inhabitants as had subjected themselves to punishment by their disorderly conduct. Soon after his return to Scotland, he had composed a domestic variance between the Earl and Countess of Argyle. In the year 1561, he had been employed as arbitrator in a difference between Archibald, Earl of Angus, and his brothers. And he was now urged by the Earl of Bothwell to assist in removing a deadly feud which subsisted between him and the Earl of Arran. He was averse to interfere in this business, which had already baffled the authority of the privy council; but at the desire of friends, he yielded, and, after considerable pains, had the satisfaction of bringing the parties to an amicable interview, at which they mutually promised to bury their former differences. But all the fair hopes which he had formed from this reconciliation were speedily blasted. For, in the course of a few days, Arran came to him in great agitation, with the information that Bothwell had endeavored to engage him in a conspiracy, to seize upon the person of the queen, and to kill the Prior of St. Andrews, Maitland, and the rest of her counselors. Knox does not seem to have given much credit to this information; he even endeavored to prevent Arran from making it public; in this, however, he did not succeed, and both noblemen were imprisoned. It soon after became evident that Arran was lunatic, but the fears of the courtiers show that they did not altogether disbelieve his accusation, and that they suspected that Bothwell had formed a design, of which his future conduct proved him not incapable.
In the month of May, Knox had another interview with the queen, on the following occasion. The family of Guise were making the most vigorous efforts to regain that ascendency in the French councils of which they had been deprived since the death of Francis II, and, as zeal for the Catholic religion was the cloak under which they concealed their ambitious designs, they began by stirring up persecution against the Protestants. The massacre of Vassy, in the beginning of March, was a prelude to this, in which the Duke of Guise and Cardinal of Lorrain ,attacked, with an armed force, a congregation peaceably assembled for worship, killed a number of them, and wounded and mutilated others, not excepting women and children. Intelligence of the success which attended the measures of her uncles was brought to Queen Mary, who immediately after gave a splendid ball to her foreign servants, at which the dancing was prolonged to a late hour.
Knox was advertised of the festivities in the palace, and had no doubt that they were occasioned by the accounts which the queen had received from France. He always felt a lively interest in the concerns of the French Protestants, with many of whom he was intimately acquainted; and he entertained a very bad opinion of the princes of Lorrain. In his sermon on the following Sabbath, after discoursing of the dignity of magistrates and the obedience which was due to them, he proceeded to lament the abuse which the greater part of rulers made of their power, and introduced some severe strictures upon the vices to which they were commonly addicted, their oppression, ignorance, hatred of virtue, attachment to bad company and fondness for foolish pleasures. Glancing at the amusements which were common in the palace, he said that princes were more exercised he said that princes were more exercised in dancing and music than in reading or hearing the word of God, and delighted more in fiddlers and flatterers than in the company of wise and grave men, who were capable of giving wholesome counsel. As to dancing, he said, that, although he did not find it praised in Scripture, and profane writers had termed it a gesture more becoming mad than sober men, yet he would not utterly condemn it, provided those who practiced it did not neglect the duties of their station, and did not dance, like the Philistines, from joy at the misfortunes of God’s people. If they were guilty of such conduct, their mirth would soon be converted into sorrow. Information of this discourse was quickly conveyed to the queen, with many exaggerations, and the preacher was next day ordered to attend at the palace. Being conveyed into the royal chamber, where the queen sat with her maids of honor and principal counselors, he was accused of having spoken of her majesty irreverently, and in a manner calculated to bring her under the contempt and hatred of her subjects.
After the queen had made a long speech on that theme, he via allowed to state his defense. He told her majesty that she had been treated as persons usually were who refused to attend the preaching of the word of God; she had been deceived by the false reports of flatterers. For, if she had heard the calumniated discourse, he did not believe she could have been offended with anything that he had said. She would now, therefore, be pleased to hear him repeat, as exactly as he could, what he had preached yesterday. Mary was obliged for once to listen to a Protestant sermon. Having finished the recapitulation of his discourse, he said, “If any man, madam, will say that I spake more, let him presently accuse me; for I think I have not only touched the sum, but the very words as I spake them.” Several of the company, who had heard the sermon, attested that he had given a fair and accurate account of it. After turning round to the informers, who were dumb, the queen told him, that his words, though sharp enough as related by himself, had been reported to her in a different way. She added that she knew that her uncles and he were of a different religion, and therefore did not blame him for having no good opinion of them; but if he heard anything about her conduct which displeased him, he ought to come to herself privately, and she would willingly listen to his admonitions. Knox easily saw through this proposal; and, from what he already knew of Mary’s character, was convinced that she had no inclination to receive his private instructions, but wished merely to induce him to refrain in his sermons from everything that might be displeasing to the court. He replied that he was willing to do anything for her majesty’s contentment, which was consistent with his office; if her grace chose to attend the public sermons, she would have an opportunity of knowing what pleased or displeased him in her and in others; or if she chose to appoint a time when she would hear the substance of the doctrine which he preached in public, he would most gladly wait upon her grace’s pleasure, time, and place; but to come and wait at her chamber-door, and then to have liberty only to whisper in her ear what people thought and said of her, that would neither his conscience nor his office permit him to do. “For,” added he, in a strain which he sometimes used even on serious occasions, “albeit, at your grace’s commandment, I am heir now, yit can I not tell what uther men shall judge of me, that, at this time of day, am absent from my buke, and waitting upon the court.” “Ye will not alwayes be at your buke,” said the queen, pettishly, and turned her back. As he left the room “with a reasonable merry countenance,” he overheard one of the Popish attendants saying, “He is not afraid!” “Why should the plesing face of a gentilwoman afray me?” said he, regarding them with a sarcastic scowl, “1 have luiked in the faces of mony angry men, and yit have not bene affrayed above measour.”
There was at that time but one place of worship in the city of Edinburgh. The number of inhabitants was, indeed, small, when compared with its present population; but they still must have formed a very large congregation. St. Giles’s church, the place then used for worship, was capacious; for we learn that, on some occasions, three thousand persons assembled in it to hear sermon. In this church, Knox had, since 1560, performed all the parts of ministerial duty, without any other assistant than John Cairns, who acted as reader. He preached twice every Sabbath, and thrice on other days of the week. He met regularly once every week with his kirk-session for disciples and with the assembly of the neighborhood for the exercise on the Scriptures. He attended, besides, the meetings of the provincial Synod and General Assembly; and at almost every meeting of the latter, he received an appointment to visit and preach in some distant part of the country. These labors must have been oppressive to a constitution which was already impaired, especially as he did not indulge in extemporaneous effusions, but devoted a part of every day to study. His parish was sensible of this, and, in April 1562, the town council came to a unanimous resolution to solicit the minister of Canongate to undertake the half of the charge. The ensuing General Assembly approved of the council’s proposal, and appointed the translation to take place. It was not, however, accomplished before June 1563, owing, as it would seem, to the difficulty of obtaining an additional stipend.
The person who was appointed colleague to our Reformer John Craig. A short account of this distinguished minister cannot be altogether foreign to the history of one with whom he was so strictly associated, and it will present incidents which are curious in themselves, and illustrative of the singular manner in which many of the promoters of the Reformation were fitted by Providence for engaging in that great undertaking. He was born in 1512, and soon after lost his father in the Battle of Flodden, which proved fatal to so many families in Scotland. After finishing his education at the university of St. Andrews, he went to England, and became tutor to the family of Lord Dacres; but war having broken out between England Scotland, he returned to his native country and entered into the order of Dominican friars. The Scottish clergy were at that time eager in making inquisition for Lutherans; and owing to the circumstance of his having been in England, or to his having dropped some expressions respecting religion which were deemed too free, Craig fell under the suspicion of heresy and was thrown into prison. The accusation was found to be groundless, and he was set at liberty. But although still attached to the Roman Catholic religion, the ignorance and bigotry of the clergy gave him such a disgust at his native country, that he left it in 1537, and, after remaining a short time in England, went to France, and from that to Italy. At the recommendation of the celebrated Cardinal Pole, he was admitted among the Dominicans in the city of Bologna, and was soon raised to an honorable employment in that body. In the library of the Inquisition, which was attached to the monastery, he found a copy of Calvin’s Institutes. Being fond of books, he determined to read that work, and the consequence was that he became a thorough convert to the reformed opinions. In the warmth of his first impressions, he could not refrain from imparting his change of sentiments to his associates, and must soon have fallen a sacrifice to the vigilant guardians of the faith, had not the friendship of a father in the monastery saved him. The old man, who was a native of Scotland, represented the danger to which he exposed himself by avowing such tenets in that place, and advised him, if he was fixed in his views, to retire immediately to some Protestant country. With this prudent advice he complied so far as to procure his discharge from the monastery.
At an early period of the Christian era, there were converts to the gospel “in Caesar’s household”; and in the sixteenth century, the light of reformation penetrated into Italy and even into the territories of the Roman pontiff. On leaving the monastery of Bologna, Craig entered as tutor into the family of a neighboring nobleman, who had embraced Protestant principles; but he had not resided long in it, when, along with his host, he was delated for heresy, seized by the familiars of the Inquisition, and carried to Rome. After being confined nine months in a noisome dungeon, he was brought to trial and condemned to be burnt, along with some others, on the twentieth of August, 1559. On the evening previous to the day appointed for their execution, the reigning pontiff, Paul IV died; and, according to an accustomed practice on such occasions, the prisons in Rome were all thrown open. While those who were confined for debt and other civil offenses were liberated, heretics, after being allowed to go without the walls of their prison, were conveyed back to their cells. A tumult, however, having been raised that night in the city, Craig and his companions effected their escape, and took refuge in a house at a small distance from Rome. They had not been long there when they were followed by a company of soldiers, sent to apprehend them. On entering the house, the captain looked Craig eagerly in the face, and taking him aside, asked if he recollected of once relieving a poor wounded soldier in the vicinity of Bologna. Craig was in too great confusion to remember the circumstance. “But I remember it,” replied the captain, “and I am the man you relieved, and Providence has now put it in my power to return the kindness which you showed to a distressed stranger. You are at your liberty; your companions I must take along with me, but for your sake, shall show them every favor in my power.” He then gave him what money he had upon him, with directions how to make his escape.
We are not yet done with the wonderful incidents in the life of Craig. “Another incident,” says Archbishop Spotswood, “befell him, which I should scarcely relate, so incredible it seemeth, if to many of good place he himself had not often repeated it as a singular testimony of God’s care of him.” In the course of his journey through Italy, while he avoided the public roads and took a circuitous route to escape from pursuit, the money which he had received from the grateful soldier failed him. Having laid himself down by the side of a wood to ruminate on his condition, he perceived a dog approaching him with a purse in its teeth. It occurred to him that it had been sent by some evil-disposed person who was concealed in the wood, and wished to pick a quarrel with him. He therefore endeavored to drive it away; but the animal continuing to fawn upon him, he at last took the purse, and found in it a sum of money which enabled him to prosecute his journey. Having reached Vienna, and announced himself as a Dominican, he was employed to preach before the Archduke of Austria, who afterwards wore the imperial crown, under the title of Maximilian II. That discerning prince, who was not unfriendly to a religious reform, was so much pleased with the sermon that he was desirous of retaining Craig; but the new pope Pius IV, having heard of his reception at the Austrian capital, applied to have him sent back to Rome as a condemned heretic, upon which the archduke dismissed him with a safe-conduct. When he arrived in England, in 1560, and was informed of the establishment of the reformed religion in his country, he immediately repaired to Scotland, and was admitted to the ministry. Having in a great measure forgotten his native language during an absence of twenty-four years, he preached for a short time in Latin to some of the learned in Magdalene chapel. He was afterwards appointed minister of the parish of Canongate, where he had not officiated long, till he was elected colleague to Knox.
The queen still persevered in the line of policy which she had adopted at her first arrival in Scotland, and employed none but Protestant counselors. She entrusted the chief direction of public affairs to the Prior of St. Andrews, who, in 1562, was created Earl of Murray, and married a daughter of the earl marischal. The marriage ceremony was performed by Knox publicly before the congregation according to the custom at that time; and on that occasion the Reformer reminded the earl of the benefit which the Church had hitherto received front his services, and exhorted him to persevere in the same course, lest, if an unfavorable change was perceived, the blame should be imputed to his wife. The fact, however, was, that Knox was more afraid that Murray would be corrupted by his connection with the court, than by his matrimonial alliance.
Although the Protestants filled the cabinet, it was well known that they did not possess the affection and confidence of her majesty, and, in consequence of this, various plots were laid to displace and ruin them. During the autumn of 1562, the Roman Catholics in Scotland entertained great hopes of a change in their favor. After several unsuccessful attempts to cut off the principal courtiers, the Earl of Huntly openly took arms in the North to rescue the queen from their hands, while the Archbishop of St. Andrews endeavored to unite and rouse the Papists of the South. On this occasion, our Reformer acted with his usual zeal and foresight. Being appointed by the General Assembly as Commissioner to visit the churches of the West, he persuaded the gentlemen of that quarter to enter into a new bond of defense. Hastening into Nithsdale and Galloway, he, by his sermons and conversation, confirmed the Protestants in these places. He employed the master of Maxwell to write to the Earl of Bothwell, who had escaped from confinement, and meant, it was feared, to join Huntly. He himself wrote the Duke of Chastelherault, warning him not to listen to the solicitations of his brother, the archbishop, nor accede to a conspiracy which would infallibly prove the ruin of his house. By these means the southern parts of the kingdom were preserved in a state of peace, while the vigorous measures of Murray crushed the rebellion in the North. The queen expressed little satisfaction at the victory gained over Huntly, and there is every reason to think, that, if not privy to his rising, she expected to turn it to the advancement of her projects. According to Archbishop Spotswood, she scrupled not to say at this time, that “she hoped, before a year was expired, to have the mass and Catholic profession restored through the whole kingdom.”
While these hopes were indulged, the popish clergy thought it necessary to gain credit to their cause by appearing more in defense of their tenets than they had lately done. They began to preach publicly in different parts of the country and boasted that they were ready to dispute with the Protestant ministers.
The person who stepped forward as their champion was Quintin Kennedy, uncle to the Earl of Cassilis, and abbot of Crossraguel. Though his talents were not of a superior order, the abbot was certainly one of the most respectable of the Popish clergy in Scotland, not only in birth, but also in regularity and decorum of conduct. He seems to have spent the greater part of his life in the same neglect of professional duty which characterized his brethren; but he was roused from his inactivity by the zeal and success of the Protestant preachers, who, in the years 1556 and 1557, attacked the Popish faith, and inveighed against the idleness and corruption of the clergy. At an age when others retire from the field, he began to rub up his long neglected armor, and descended into the theological arena.
His first appearance as a polemical writer was in 1558, when he published a short system of Catholic tactics, under the title of Ane Compendius Tractive, showing “the nerrest and onlie way to establish the conscience of a Christian man,” in all matters which were in debate concerning faith and religion. This way was no other than implicit faith in the decisions of the Church or clergy. When any point of religion was controverted, the Scripture might be cited as a witness, but the Church was the judge, whose determinations, in general councils canonically assembled, were to be humbly received and submitted to by all the faithful. It was but “a barbour saying,” which the Protestants had commonly in their mouths, that every man ought to examine the Scriptures for himself. It was sufficient for those who did not occupy the place of teachers, that they had a general knowledge of the creed, the ten commandments, and the Lord’s prayer, according to the sense in which these were explained by the Church. And “as to the sacramentis, and all other secretis of the Scripture,” every Christian man ought to “stand to the judgment of his pastor, who did bear his burden in all matters doubtsome above his knowledge.”
This was doubtless a very near way to stability of mind and a most compendious mode of deciding every controversy which might arise, without having recourse to examination, reasoning, or debate. But as the willful and stubborn reformers would not submit to this easy and short mode of decision, the abbot was reluctantly obliged to enter the lists of argument with them. Accordingly, in the beginning of 1559, he challenged Willock, who was preaching in his neighborhood, to a dispute on the sacrifice of the mass. The challenge was accepted, the time and place of meeting were fixed; but the dispute did not take place, as Kennedy refused to appear, unless his antagonist would previously engage to submit to the interpretations of Scripture which had been given by the ancient doctors of the Church. From this time he seems to have made the mass the great subject of his study, and in 1561 wrote a book in its defense, which was answered by George Hay.
On the thirtieth of August, 1562, the abbot read, in his chapel of Kirkoswald, a number of articles respecting the mass, purgatory, praying to saints, the use of images, and other points, which he said, he would defend against any who should impugn them, and he promised to declare his mind more fully on the following Sabbath. Knox, who was in the vicinity, came to Kirkoswald on that day, with the design of hearing the abbot, and granting him the disputation which he had courted. In the morning, he sent some gentlemen who accompanied him to acquaint Kennedy with the reason of his coming, and to desire him either to preach according to his promise, or to attend Knox’s sermon, and afterwards to state his objections to the doctrine which might be delivered. The abbot did not think it proper to appear, and Knox preached in the chapel. When he came down from the pulpit, a letter from Kennedy was put into his hand, which led to an epistolary correspondence between them, fully as curious as the dispute which followed.
The abbot wrote to Knox that he was informed he had come to that quarter of the country “to seik disputation,” which he so far from refusing, that he “earnestlie and effectuouslie covated the samin,” and with that view should meet him next Sunday in any house in Maybole that he chose, provided not more than twenty persons on each side were allowed to be present. The reformer replied that he had come to that quarter for the purpose of preaching the gospel, and not of disputing; That he was under a previous engagement to be in Dumfries on the day mentioned by the abbot, but that he would return with convenient speed, and fix a time for meeting him. To this the abbot sent an answer, to which Knox merely returned a verbal message at the time; but when he afterwards published the correspondence, affixed short notes to it by way of reply. The abbot proposed that they should have “familear, formall, gentill ressoning.” “With my whole hart I accept the condition,” replies the Reformer; “for assuredlie, my lord (so I stile you by reason of blood, and not of office), chiding and brawling I utterlie abhor.” To Knox’s declaration that he had come to “preach Jesus Christ crucified to be the only Saviour of the world,” the abbot answers, “Praise be to God, that was na newings in this countrie, or ye war borne.” “I greatlie dout,” replies the Reformer, “if ever Christ Jesus was truelie preached by a papistical prelat or monk.” As an excuse for his not preaching at Kirkoswald on the day he had promised, the abbot says that Knox had come to the place convoyed by five or six score strangers. “I lay the night before,” says Knox, “in Mayboil, accompanied with fewer than twentie.” The abbot boasted that Willock, at a former period, and Hay, more lately, had refused to dispute with him, until they consulted the council and their brethren. “Maister George Hay offered unto your disputation, but ye fled the barrass.” Knox wished the dispute to be conducted publicly in St. John’s Church, Ayr; for says he, “I wonder with what conscience ye can require privat conference of those artikles that ye have publicklie proponed. Ye have infected the ears of the simple, ye have wounded the hartes of the godlie, and ye have spoken blasphemie in oppen audience. Let your owne conscience nowe be judge, if we be bound to answer you in the audience of twenty or forty, of whom the one half are alreadie persuaded in the treuth, and the other perchance so addicted to your error, that they will not be content that light be called light, and darknes, darknes.” “Ye said ane lytill afore,” answers the abbot, “ye did abhor all chiding and railing, bot nature passis nurtor with yow.” “I will neither interchange nature nor nurtor with yow, for all the proffets of Crosraguell.” “Gif the victorie consist in calmour or crying out,” says the abbot, objecting to a public meeting, “I wil quite you the cause but farder pley [without further plea], and yet, praise be to God, I may whisper in sic manner as I will be hard sufficientlie in the largest house in all Carrick.” “The larger the house, the better for the auditor and me,” replied the Reformer.
The Earl of Cassilis wrote to Knox, expressing his disapprobation of the proposed dispute, as unlikely to do any good, and calculated to endanger the public peace, to which the Reformer replied by signifying that his relation had given the challenge, which he was resolved not to decline, and that his lordship ought to encourage him to keep the appointment, from which no bad effects were to be dreaded. Upon this the abbot wrote a letter to Knox, charging him with having procured Cassilis’s letter to bring him into disgrace, and to advance his own honor, and saying that he would have “rancountered” him the last time he was in that country, had it not been for the interposition of his nephew. “Ye sal be assured,” adds he, “I sal keip day and place in Mayboill, according to my writing, an I haif my life, an my feit louse”; and in another letter to Knox and the bailies of Ayr, he says, “Keip your promes, and pretex na oukrie, by my lorde of Cassilis writing.” “To neither of these,” says Knox, “did I answer otherwise than by appointing the day, and promising to keap the same. For I can pacientlie suffer wantone men to speak wantonlie, considering that I had sufficiently answered my lord of Cassilis in that behalf.”
The conditions of the combat were now speedily settled. They agreed to meet on the twenty-eighth of September, at eight o’clock in the morning, in the house of the provost of Maybole. Forty persons on each side were to be admitted as witnesses of the dispute, with “as many mo as the house might goodly hold, at the sight of my lord of Cassilis.” And notaries, or scribes, were chosen on each side to record the papers which might be given in by the parties, and the arguments which they advanced in the course of reasoning, to prevent unnecessary repetition, or a false report of the proceedings. These conditions were formerly drawn out, and subscribed by the Abbot and the Reformer, on the day preceding the meeting.
When they met, “Johne Knox addressed him to make publict prayer, whereat the abbot wes soir offended at the first, but whil said John wold in nowise be stayed, he and his gave audience, which being ended, the abbote said, ‘Be my faith, it is weill said’” The reasoning commenced by reading a paper presented by the abbot, in which, after rehearsing the occasion of his present appearance, and protesting, that his entering into dispute was not to be understood as implying that the points in question were disputable or dubious, being already determined by lawful general councils, he declared his readiness to defend the articles which he had exhibited, beginning with that concerning the sacrifice of the mass. To this paper Knox gave in a written answer in the course of the disputation; and, in the meantime, after stating his opinion respecting general councils, he proceded to the article in dispute. It was requisite, he said, to state clearly and distinctly the subject in controversy, and he thought the mass contained the four following things: the name, the form and action, the opinion entertained of it, and the actor, the authority which he had to do what he pretended to do, all of which he was prepared to show were destitute of any foundation in Scripture. The abbot was aware of the difficulty of managing the point on such broad ground, and he had taken up ground of his own, which he thought he could maintain against his antagonist. “As to the masse that he will impung,” said he, “or any mannes masse, yea, an it war the paipes awin masse, I will mantein na thing but Jesus Christes masse, conforme to my article, as it is written, and diffinition contened in my buik, whilk he hes tane on hand to impung.”
Knox expressed his delight at hearing the abbot say that he would defend nothing but the mass of Christ, for if he adhered to this, they were “on the verray point of an Christiane agrement,” as he was ready to allow whatever could be shown to been instituted by Christ. As to his lordship’s book, he confessed he had not read it, and (without excusing his negligence) requested the definition to be read to him from it. The qualified his assertion by saying that he meant to defend no other mass, except that which in its “substance, institution, and effect,” was appointed by Christ; and he defined the mass, in its substance and effect, to be the sacrifice and oblation of the Lord’s body and blood, given and offered by him in the last supper, and for the first confirmation of this, he rested upon oblation of bread and wine by Melchizedec. His argument was that the Scripture declared Christ to be a priest after the order of Melchizedec. Melchizedec offered bread and wine to God; therefore Christ offered or made oblation of his body and blood in the last supper, which was the only instance in which the priesthood of Christ and Melchizedec could agree.
Knox said that the ceremonies of the mass and the opinion entertained of it (as procuring remission of sins to the quick and the dead) were viewed as important parts of it, and, having a strong hold of the consciences of the people, ought to be taken into the argument, but as the abbot declared himself willing to defend these afterwards, he would proceed to the substance, and proposed, in the first place, to fix the sense in which the word sacrifice or oblation was used in this question. There were sacrifices propitiatoriæ for expiation, and eucharisticæ, for thanksgiving, in which last sense the mortification of the body, prayer, and almsgiving were called sacrifices in Scripture. He wished, therefore, to know whether the abbot understood the word in the first or second of these senses in this dispute. The abbot said that he would not at present inquire what his opponent meant by a sacrifice propitiatorium; but he held the sacrifice on the cross to be the only sacrifice of redemption, and that of the mass to be the sacrifice of commemoration of the death and passion of Christ. Knox replied that the chief head which he intended to impugn, seemed to be yielded by the abbot; and he, for his part, cheerfully granted that there was a commemoration of Christ’s death in the right use of the ordinance of the supper.
The abbot insisted that Knox should proceed to impugn the warrant which he had taken from Scripture for his article. “Protesting,” said the reformer, “that this mekle is win, that the sacrifice of the messe being denied by me to be a sacrifice propitiatorie for the sins of the quick and the dead (according to the opinion thereof before conceaved) hath no patron at the present, I am content to procede.”
“I protest he hes win no thing of me as yit, and referres it to black and white contened in our writing.”
“I have openlie denied the masse to be an sacrifice propitiatorie for the quick, &c. and the defence thereof is denied. And, therefore, I referre me unto the same judges that my lord hath clamed.”
“Ye may denie what ye pleis; for all that ye denie I tak not presentlie to impugn, but whair I began there will I end, that is, to defend the messe conform to my artickle.”
“Your lordship’s ground,” said Knox, after some altercation, “is that Melchizedeck is the figure of Christe in that he did offer unto God bread and wine, and that it behoved Jesus Christ to offer, in his latter supper, his body and blude under the forms of bread and wine. I answer to your ground yet againe, that Melchizedeck offered neither bread nor wine unto God; and, therefore, it that ye would thereupon conclude hath no assurance of your gxound.” “Preve that,” said the abbot. Knox replied that according to the rules of reasoning, he could not be bound to prove a negative, that it was incumbent on his opponent to bring forward some proof for his affirmation, concerning which, the text was altogether silent, and that until the abbot did this, it was sufficient for him simply to deny. But the abbot said, he “stuck to his text,” and insisted that his antagonist should show for what purpose Melchizedec brought out the bread and the wine, if it was not to offer them to God. After protesting that the abbot’s position remained destitute of support, and that he was not bound, in point of argument, to show what became of the bread and wine, or what use was made of them, Knox consented to state his opinion that they were intended by Melchizedec to refresh Abraham and his company. The abbot had now gained what he wished, and he had a number of objections ready to start against this view of the words, by which he was able at least to protract and involve the dispute. And thus ended the first day’s contest.
When the company convened on the following day, the abbot proceeded to impugn the view which his opponent had given. He urged, first, that Abraham and his company had a sufficiency of provision in the spoils which they had taken from the enemy in their late victory, and did not need Melchizedec’s bread and wine; and, secondly, that the text said that Melchizedec brought them forth, and it was improbable that one man, and he a king, should carry as much as would refresh three hundred and eighteen men. To these objections Knox made such replies as will occur to any person who thinks on the subject. And in this manner did the second day pass.
When they met on the third day, the abbot presented a paper, in which he stated another objection to Knox’s view of the text. After some more altercation on this subject, Knox desired his opponent to proceed, according to his promise, to establish argument upon which he had rested his cause. But the abbot, being indisposed, rose up, and put into Knox’s hand a book which he referred him for the proof. By this time the noblemen and gentlemen present were completely wearied out. For, besides the tedious and uninteresting mode in which the dispute had been managed, they could find entertainment neither for themselves nor for their retinue in Maybole; so that if any person had brought in bread and wine among them, it is presumable that they would not have debated long upon the purpose for which it was brought. Knox proposed that they should adjourn to Ayr and finish the dispute, which was refused by the abbot, who said he would come to Edinburgh for that purpose, provided he could obtain the queen’s permission. Upon this the company dismissed.
The dispute was never resumed, though Knox says that he applied to the privy council for liberty to the abbot to come to Edinburgh for this purpose. Kennedy died in August 1564. It has been said that he was canonized as a saint after his death, and Dempster makes him both a saint and a martyr. I have not seen his name in the Romish calendar, but I find (what is of as great consequence) that the grand argument upon which he insisted in his disputation with the Reformer has been canonized. For in the calendar, at “March 25,” it is written, “Melchezedec sacrifeit breid and wyne in figure of ye bodie and bloud of our Lord, whilk is offerit in ye messe.” Doubtless those who knew the very month and day on which this happened, must have been better acquainted with the design of Melchizedec than either Moses or Paul.
The abbot and his friends having circulated the report that he had the advantage in the disputation, Knox, in 1563, published the account of it from the records of the notaries, to which he added a prologue and short marginal notes. The prologue and his answer to the abbot’s first paper, especially the latter, are pieces of good writing. I have been more minute in the narrative of this dispute than its merits deserve, because no account of it has hitherto appeared, the tract itself being so exceedingly rare as to have been seen by but few for a long period.
Another priest who defended the Roman Catholic cause at this time was Ninian Wingate. He had been schoolmaster of Linlithgow, from which situation he was removed by Spotswood, superintendent of Lothian, on account of his devoted attachment to popery. In the month of February 1562, he sent to Knox a writing, consisting of eighty-three questions upon the principal topics of dispute between the Papists and Protestants, which he had drawn up in the name of the inferior clergy, and of the Catholic persuasion in Scotland. To some of these, particularly the questions which related to the call of the Protestant ministers, the Reformer returned an answer from the pulpit, and Wingate addressed several letters to him, complaining that his answers were not satisfactory. These letters, with addresses to the queen, nobility, bishops, and magistrates of Edinburgh, Wingate committed to the press, but the impression being seized in the printer’s house (according to Bishop Lesley), the author made his escape, and went to the Continent. Knox intended to publish an answer to Wingate’s questions, and to defend the validity of the Protestant ministry, but it does not appear that he carried his design into execution.
In the beginning of 1563, Knox went to Jedburgh, by appointment of the General Assembly, to investigate a scandal which had broken out against Paul Methven, the minister of that place, who was suspected of adultery. Methven was found guilty and excommunicated. Having fled to England, he sent a letter to the General Assembly, professing his willingness to submit to the discipline of the Church, but requesting that the account of his process should be deleted from the records of the Church. The Assembly declared that he might return with safety to his native country, and that he should be admitted to public repentance, but refused to erase the process from their minutes. He afterwards returned to Scotland, and a severe and humiliating penance was prescribed to him. He was enjoined to appear at the church-door of Edinburgh, when the second bell rang for public worship, clad in sackcloth, bareheaded and barefooted, to stand there until the prayer and psalms were finished, when he was to be brought into the church to hear sermon, during which he was to be “placeit in the public spectakell above the peiple.” This appearance he was to make on three several preaching days, and on the last of them, being a Sabbath, he was, at the close of the sermon, to profess his sorrow before the congregation, and to request their forgiveness, upon which he was again to be “clad in his awin apparell,” and received into the communion of the Church.
He was to repeat this course at Dundee and at Jedburgh, where he had officiated as minister. Methven went through a part of this humbling scene, with professions of deep sorrow, but being overwhelmed with shame, and despairing to regain his lost reputation, he stopped in the midst of it, and again retired to England. Prudential considerations were not wanting to induce the reformed Church of Scotland to stifle this affair, and to screen from public ignominy a man who had acted a distinguished part in the late reformation of religion. But they refused to listen to these, and by instituting a strict scrutiny into the fact, and inflicting an exemplary punishment upon the criminal, they “approved themselves to be clear in this matter,” and effectually shut the mouths of their Popish adversaries.
The mode of public repentance enjoined on this occasion was appointed to be afterwards used in all cases of aggravated immorality. There was nothing in which the Scottish reformers approached nearer to the primitive Church than in the rigorous and impartial exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, the relaxation of which, under the Papacy, they justly regarded as one great cause of the universal corruption of religion. While they rejected many of the ceremonies which were introduced into the worship of the Christian Church during the first three centuries, they, from detestation of vice and a desire to restrain it, did not scruple to conform to a number of their penitential regulations. In some instances they might carry their rigor against offenders to an extreme, but it was a virtuous extreme compared with the dangerous laxity, or rather total disuse of discipline, which has gradually crept into almost all the Churches which retain the name of reformed; even as the scrupulous delicacy with which our forefathers shunned the society of those who had transgressed the rules of morality is to be preferred to modern manners, by which the vicious obtain easy admission into the company of the virtuous.
Twas hard, perhaps, on here and there a waif, Desirous to return, and not received, But was an wholesome rigour in the main, And taught the unblemished to preserve with care That purity, whose loss was loss of all. But now, yes, now, We are become so candid and so fair, So liberal in construction, and so rich In Christian charity (good-natured age!), That they are safe, sinners of either sex, Transgress what laws they may.
In the month of May the queen sent for Knox to Lochleven. Popish priests, presuming upon her avowed partiality to and her secret promises of protection, had of late become bold; and, during the late Easter, masses had been openly celebrated in different parts of the kingdom. Repeated proclamations had been issued against this practice by the queen in council, but none of them were carried into execution. The gentlemen of the west country, who were the most zealous Protestants, perceiving that the laws were eluded, came to the resolution of executing them, without making any application to the court, and apprehended some of the offenders by way of example. These decided proceedings, which were calculated to defeat the scheme of policy which she had formed, gave offense to her majesty; but finding that the signification of her displeasure had not the effect of stopping them, she wished to avail herself of the Reformer’s influence for accomplishing her purpose.
She dealt with him very earnestly for two hours before supper, to persuade the western gentlemen to desist from all interruption of the Catholic worship. He told her majesty that if she would exert her authority in executing the laws of the land, he could promise for the peaceable behavior of the Protestants, but if she thought to elude them, he feared there were some who would let the Papists understand that they should not offend with impunity. “Will ye allow that they shall take my sword in their hands?” said the queen. “The sword of justice is God’s,” replied the Reformer with equal firmness, “and is given to princes and rulers for one end, which, if they transgress, sparing the wicked and oppressing the innocent, they who, in the fear of God, execute judgment where God has commanded, offend not God, although kings do it not.” Having produced some examples from Scripture to show that criminals might be punished by persons who did not occupy the place of supreme rulers, he added that the gentlemen of the West were acting strictly according to law, for the act of parliament gave power to all judges within their bounds, to search for and punish those who should transgress its enactments. He concluded with inculcating a doctrine which has seldom been very pleasing to princes: “It shall be profitable to your majesty to consider what is the thing your grace’s subjects look to receive of your majesty, and what it is that ye ought to do unto them by mutual contract. They are bound to obey you, and that not but in God; ye are bound to keep laws to them. Ye crave of them service; they crave of you protection and defence against wicked doers. Now, madam, if you shall deny your duty unto them (which especially craves that ye punish malefactors), think ye to receive full obedience of them? I fear, madam, ye shall not.” The queen broke off the conversation with evident marks of displeasure.
Having imparted the substance of what had passed between them to the Earl of Murray, Knox meant to return to Edinburgh next day without waiting for any further communications with the queen. But a message was delivered to him at an early hour in the morning, desiring him not to depart until he had again spoken with her majesty. He accordingly met her at a place in the neighborhood of Kinross, where she took the amusement of hawking. This interview was very different from that of the preceding evening. Waiving entirely the subject on which they had differed, she conversed with him upon a variety of topics, with the greatest familiarity and apparent confidence. Lord Ruthven (she said) had offered her a ring, but she could not love that nobleman. She knew that he used enchantment, yet he had been made a member of her privy council, and she blamed secretary Lethington for procuring his admission into that body. Knox excused himself from saying anything of the secretary in his absence. “I understand,” said she, introducing another subject of discourse, “that ye are appointed to go to Dumfries, for the election of a superintendent to be established in these countries.” He answered in the affirmative. “But I understand the Bishop of Athens would be superintendent.”
“He is one, madam, that is put in election.”
“If you knew him as well as I do, you would not promote him to that office, nor yet to any other within your kirk.”
Knox said that the bishop deceived many, if he did not fear God.
“Well, do as you will, but that man is a dangerous man.”
Knox wished to take his leave of her majesty, she pressed him to stay. “I have one of the greatest matters that have touched me, since I came into this realm, to open to you, and I must have your help in it,” said she, with an air of condescension and confidence as enchanting as if she had put a ring on his finger. She then entered into a long discourse with him concerning a domestic difference between the Earl and Countess of Argyle. Her ladyship, had not, she said, been so circumspect in everything as could have been wished, but still she was of opinion that his lordship had not treated her in an honest and godly manner. Knox said that he was not unacquainted with the disagreeable variance which had subsisted between that honorable couple, and, before her majesty’s arrival in this country, had effected a reconciliation between them. On that occasion, the countess had promised not to complain to any creature before acquainting him, and having never heard from her on that subject, he had concluded that there was nothing but concord between her and his lordship. “Well,” said the queen, “it is worse than ye believe. But do this muchfor my sake, as once again to put them at unity, and if she behave not herself as she ought to do, she shall find no favor of me; but in any wise let not my lord know that I have requested you in this matter.” Then introducing the subject of their reasoning on the preceding evening, she said, “I promise to do as ye required; I shall cause summon all offenders; and ye shall know that I shall minister justice.” “I am assured, said he, “that ye shall please God, and enjoy rest and tranquility within your realm, which to your majesty is more profitable than all the pope’s power can be.” Upon this he took his leave of the queen.
This interview exhibits one part of Mary’s character in a very striking light. It shows how far she was capable of dissembling, what artifice she could employ, and what condescensions she could make, when she was bent on accomplishing a favorite object. She had formerly attacked the Reformer on another quarter without success and was convinced it was vain to think of working on his fears; she now resolved to try if she could soothe his stern temper by flattering his vanity, and disarm his jealousy by strong marks of confidence. There is reason to think that she partly succeeded in her design. For, though he was not very susceptible of flattery, and must have been struck with the sudden change in the queen’s views and behavior, there are few minds that can altogether resist the impression made by the condescending familiarity of persons of superior rank; and our feelings on such occasions chide as uncharitable the cold suspicions suggested by our judgment. In obedience to her majesty’s request, he wrote a letter to the Earl of Argyle, which was not very pleasing to that nobleman. From deference to the opinion which she had expressed, he inquired more narrowly into the conduct of the Bishop of Galloway, and finding some grounds of suspicion, postponed the election. And the report which he gave of the queen’s gracious answer operated in her favor on the public mind.
But if his zeal suffered a temporary intermission, it soon kindled with fresh ardor. On the nineteenth of May, the Archbishop of St. Andrews, and a number of the principal Papists, were arraigned, by the queen’s orders, before the Lord Justice General, for transgressing the laws; and, having come in her majesty’s will, were committed to ward. But this was merely a stroke of policy, to enable her the more easily to carry her measures in the parliament which met on the following day, and, accordingly, the prisoners were set at liberty as soon as it was dissolved.
This was the first parliament which had been held since the queen’s arrival in Scotland, and it was natural to expect that their first business would be to ratify the treaty of peace made in July 1560, and the establishment of the Protestant religion. If the acts of the former parliament were invalid, as the queen had repeatedly declared, the Protestants had no law on their side; they held their religion at the mercy of their sovereign, and might be required at her pleasure to submit to Popery, as the religion which still possessed the legal establishment. But so well had she laid her plans, such was the effect of her insinuating address, and, above all, so powerful was the temptation of self-interest on the minds of the Protestant leaders, that, by general consent, they passed from this demand, and lost the only favorable opportunity which presented itself, during the reign of Mary, for giving a legal security to the reformed religion, and thereby removing one principal source of national fears and jealousies. An act of oblivion, securing indemnity to those who had been engaged in the late civil war, was indeed passed, but the mode of its enactment virtually implied the invalidity of the treaty in which it had been originally embodied; and the Protestants, on their bended knees, supplicated, as a boon from their sovereign, what they had formerly won with their swords and repeatedly demanded as their right. The other acts made to please the more zealous reformers were expressed with such studied and glaring ambiguity, as to offer insult to their understandings.
Our Reformer was thunderstruck when first informed of the measures which were in agitation, and could scarcely believe that it was seriously intended to carry them into execution. He immediately procured an interview with some of the leading members of parliament, to whom he represented the danger allowing that meeting to dissolve without obtaining the ratification of the acts of the preceding parliament, or at least those acts which established the Reformation. They alleged that the queen would never have agreed to call them together, if they had insisted in these demands, but that there was a prospect of her being soon married, and on that occasion they would obtain all their wishes. In vain he reminded them that poets and painters had represented Occasion with a bald hind-head; in vain he urged that the event to which they looked forward would be accompanied with difficulties of its own, which would require all their skill and circumspection. Their determination was fixed. He now perceived the full extent of the queen’s simulation, and the selfishness and servility of the Protestant leaders affected him deeply.
So hot was the altercation between him and the Earl of Murray on this subject that an open rupture ensued. Knox had long looked upon that nobleman as one of the most sincere and steady adherents of the reformed cause, and therefore felt the greater disappointment at his conduct. Under his first irritation he wrote a letter to Murray, in which, after reminding him of his condition when they first became acquainted in London, and the honors to which he had been raised by Providence, solemnly renounced friendship with him, as one who prefer his own interest and the pleasure of his sister to the advancement of religion, left him to the guidance of the new counselors whom he had chosen, and exonerated him from all future concern in his affairs. This variance, which continued nearly two years, was very gratifying to the queen and to others who disliked their former familiarity, and who failed not (as Knox informs us) to “cast oil into the flame, until God did quench it by the water of affliction.”
Before the dissolution of the parliament, the Reformer embraced an opportunity of disburdening his mind in the presence of the greater part of the members assembled in his church. After discoursing of the great mercy of God shown to Scotland in marvelously delivering them from bondage of soul and body, and of the deep ingratitude which he perceived in all ranks of persons, he addressed himself particularly to the nobility. He praised God that he had an opportunity of pouring out the sorrows of his heart in the presence of those who could attest the truth of all that he said. He appealed to their consciences, if he had not, in their greatest extremities, exhorted them to depend upon God, and assured them of preservation and victory, provided they preferred the divine glory to their own lives and secular interests. “I have been with you in your most desperate temptations (continued he, in a strain of impassioned eloquence); in your most extreme dangers I have been with you. St. Johnston, Cupar-moor, and the Craggs of Edinburgh, are yet recent in my heart; yea, that dark and dolorous night wherein all ye, my lords, with shame and fear, left this town, is yet in my mind, and God forbid that ever I forget it! What was, I say, my exhortation to you, and what has fallen in vain of all that ever God promised unto you by my mouth, ye yourselves yet live to testify. There is not one of you, against whom was death and destruction threatened, perished, and how many of your enemies has God plagued before your eyes! Shall this be the thankfulness that ye shall render unto your God, to betray his cause when you have it in your hands to establish it as you please?” He saw nothing (he said) but a cowardly desertion of Christ’s standard. Some had even the effrontery to say that they had neither law nor parliament for their religion. They had the authority of God for their religion, and its truth was independent of human laws; but it was also accepted within this realm in public parliament, and that parliament he would maintain to have been as lawful and as free as any parliament that had ever been held within the kingdom of Scotland.
In the conclusion of his discourse, he adverted to the reports her majesty’s marriage, and of the princes who courted her, and (desiring the audience to mark his words) he predicted the consequences which would ensue, if ever the nobility consented that their sovereign should marry a Papist.
Protestants, as well as Papists, were offended with the freedom this sermon, and some who had been most familiar with the preacher now shunned his company. Flatterers were not wanting to run to the queen, and inform her that John Knox had preached against her marriage. After surmounting all opposition to her measures, and managing so successfully the haughty and independent barons of her kingdom, Mary was incensed to think that there should yet be one man of obscure condition ventured to condemn her proceedings; and as she could not tame his stubbornness, she determined to punish his temerity. He was ordered instantly to appear before her. Lord Ochiltree, with several gentlemen, accompanied him to the palace, but the superintendent of Angus, Erskine of Dun, was with him into the royal presence.
Her majesty received him in a very different manner from what she had done at Lochleven. Never had prince been handled (she passionately exclaimed) as she was; she had borne with him in all his rigorous speeches against herself and her uncles; she had sought his favor by all means; she had offered him audience whenever he pleased to admonish her; “And yet,” said she, “I cannot be quit of you. I vow to God I shall be once revenged!” On pronouncing these words with great violence, she burst into a flood of tears, which interrupted her speech. When the queen had composed herself, Knox proceeded calmly to make his defense. Her grace and he had (he said) at different times been engaged in controversy, and he never before had perceived her offended with him. When it should please God to deliver her from the bondage of error in which she had been trained up, through want of instruction in the truth, he trusted that her majesty would not find the liberty of his tongue offensive. Out of the pulpit, he believed, few had occasion to complain of him; but there he was not his own master, but was bound to obey Him who commanded him to speak plainly, and to flatter no flesh on the face of the earth.
“But what have you to do with my marriage?” demanded the queen. He was proceeding to state the extent of his commission as a preacher, and the reasons which led him to touch on that delicate subject, but she interrupted him by repeating her question, “What have you to do with my marriage? Or what are you in this commonwealth?” “A subject born within the same, madam,” replied the Reformer, piqued by the last question, and by the contemptuous tone in which it was proposed, “and albeit I be neither earl, lord, nor baron in it, yet has God made me (how abject that ever I be in your eyes) a profitable member within the same. Yea, madam, to me it appertains no less to forwarn of such things as may hurt it, if I forsee them, than it doth to any of the nobility, for both my vocation and conscience require plainness of me. And, therefore, madam, to yourself I say that which I spake in public place. Whensoever the nobility of this realm shall consent that ye be subject to an unfaithful husband, they do as much as in them lieth to renounce Christ, to banish his truth from them, to betray the freedom of this realm, and perchance shall in the end do small comfort to yourself.” At these words, Mary began again to sob and weep with great bitterness. The superintendent, who was a man of mild and gentle spirit, tried to mitigate her grief and resentment; he praised her beauty and her accomplishments, and told her that there was not a prince in Europe who would not reckon himself happy in gaining her hand. During this scene, the severe and inflexible mind of the Reformer displayed itself. He continued silent and with unaltered countenance until the queen had given vent to her feelings. He then protested that he never took delight in the distress of any creature; it was with great difficulty that he could see his own boys weep when he corrected them for their faults, and far less could he rejoice in her majesty’s tears; but seeing he had given her no just reason of offense, and had only discharged his duty, he was constrained, though unwillingly, to sustain her tears, rather than hurt his conscience, and betray the commonwealth by his silence.
This apology inflamed the queen still more; she ordered him instantly to leave her presence, and to wait the signification of her pleasure in the adjoining room. There he stood as “one whom men had never seen,” all his friends, Lord Ochiltree excepted, being afraid to show him the smallest countenance. In this situation he addressed himself to the court ladies, who sat in their richest dress in the chamber: “O fair ladies, how plesing war this lyfe of yours, if it sould ever abyde, and then, in the end, that ye might pas to hevin with all this gay gear! But fye upon that knave Death, that will come widder we will or not!” Having engaged them in conversation by a mixture of seriousness and raillery, he passed the time, till the superintendent came and informed him that he was allowed to go home until her majesty had taken farther advice. The queen insisted to have the judgment of the Lords of Articles, whether the words he had used in the pulpit were not actionable; but she was persuaded by her counselors to abandon the idea of a prosecution. “And so that storme quietit in appearance, bot nevir in the hart.”
No expressions are sufficiently strong to describe the horror which many feel at the monstrous inhumanity of Knox, in remaining unmoved, while “youth, beauty, and royal dignity,” were dissolved in tears before him. Enchanting, surely, must the charms of the Queen of Scots have been, and iron-hearted the Reformer, who could resist the impression of them, when they continue to this day to exercise such a sway over the hearts of men, that even grave and serious authors, not addicted to the language of gallantry and romance, protest, that they cannot read of the tears which she shed on this occasion, without feeling an irresistible inclination to weep along with her. There may be some, however, who, knowing how much real misery there is in the world, are not disposed to waste their feelings unnecessarily, and who are of opinion that there was not much to commiserate in the condition of the queen, nor to reprobate in the conduct of the Reformer. Considering that she had been so fortunate in her measures, and had found the nobility so ready to gratify all her wishes, the passion by which she suffered herself to be transported was extravagant, and her tears must have been those of anger more than of grief. On the other hand, when we consider that Knox was at this time deserted by his friends, and stood almost alone in resisting the will of a princess, who accomplished her measures chiefly by caresses and tears, we may be disposed to form a more favorable idea of his conduct and motives. We behold not, indeed, the enthusiastic lover, mingling his tears with those of his mistress, and vowing to revenge her wrongs; nor the man of nice sensibility, who loses every other consideration in the gratification of his feelings; but we behold, what is more rare, the stern patriot—the rigid Reformer—who, in the discharge of his duty, and in a public cause, can withstand the tide of tenderness as well as the storm of passion. There have been times when such conduct was regarded as the proof of a superior mind, and the man who, from such motives, “hearkened not to the wife of his bosom, nor knew his own children,” has been the object, not of censure, but of admiration, in pagan as well as sacred story.
Fertur pudicæ conjugis osculum, Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor, Ab se removisse, et virilem Torvus humi posuisse vultum.
While Knox lay under the displeasure of the court, and had lost the confidence of his principal friends, his enemies judged it a favorable opportunity for attacking him in (what had been universally allowed to be irreproachable) his moral conduct. At the very time that he was engaged in scrutinizing the scandal against Methven, and inflicting upon him the highest censure of the Church, it was alleged that he was himself guilty of the same crime. Euphemia Dundas, an inhabitant of Edinburgh, inveighing one day, in the presence of a circle of her acquaintance, against the Protestant doctrine and ministers, said, among other things, that John Knox had been a common whoremonger all his life, and that, within a few days past, he “was apprehendit and tane furth of ape killogie with ane common hure.” This might have been passed over by Knox and the Church, as an effusion of Popish spleen or female scandal; but the recent occurrence at Jedburgh, the situation in which the Reformer at present stood with the court, the public manner in which the charge had been brought, and the specification of a particular instance, seemed to them to justify and call for a legal investigation. Accordingly, the clerk of the General Assembly, on the eighteenth of June, gave in a formal representation and petition to the town council, praying that the woman might be brought before them and the matter examined; that, if the accusation was found true, the accused might be punished with every degree of merited rigor; and that, if false, the accuser might be dealt with according to the demerit of her offense. She was called, and, appearing before the council, flatly denied that she had ever used any such words, although Knox’s procurator afterwards produced respectable witnesses to prove that she had spoken them.
This convicted calumny, which never gained the smallest credit at the time, would not have deserved notice, had it not been revived after the Reformer’s death, by the Popish writers, who, having caught hold of the report, and dressed it out in all the horrid colors which malice or credulity could suggest, circulated it industriously, by their publications, through the Continent. Though I had not been able to trace their slanders to this source, the atrocity of the imputed crimes, the unspotted reputation which Knox uniformly maintained among all his contemporaries, the glaring self-contradictions of the accusers, and, above all, the notorious spirit of slander and defamation of which they have long stood convicted in the learned world, would have been grounds sufficient for rejecting such charges with detestation. Those who are acquainted with the writings of that period will not think that I speak too strongly; such as are ignorant of them may be satisfied by looking into the notes.
The queen flattered herself that she had at last caught the Reformer in an offense, which would infallibly subject him to punishment. During her residence at Stirling, in the month of August, the domestics whom she left behind her in Holyrood-house celebrated the Popish worship with greater publicity than been usual when she was present; and, at the time the sacrament of the supper was dispensed in Edinburgh, they revived certain superstitious practices which had been laid aside by the Roman Catholics, since the establishment of the Reformation. This boldness offended the Protestants, and some them went down to the palace to mark the inhabitants who repaired to the service. Perceiving numbers entering, they burst into the chapel, and presenting themselves at the altar, which was prepared for mass, asked the priest how he “durst be so malapert” as to proceed in that manner, when the queen was absent. Alarmed at this intrusion, the mistress of the household dispatched a messenger to the comptroller, who was attending sermon in St Giles’s Church, desiring him to come instantly to save her life and the palace. Having hurried down, accompanied with the magistrates and a guard, the comptroller found everything quiet, and no appearance of tumult except what was occasioned by the retinue which he brought along with him. When the report of this affair was conveyed to the queen, she declared her determination not to return to Edinburgh until this riot was punished, and indicted two of the Protestants who had entered the chapel to stand trial “for forethought felony, hamesucken, and invasion of the palace.” Fearing an intention to proceed to extremities against these men, and that their condemnation would be a preparative to some hostile attempt against their religion, the Protestants in Edinburgh resolved that Knox, agreeably to a commission which he had received from the Church, should write a circular letter to the principal gentlemen of their persuasion, informing them of the circumstances, and requesting their presence on the day of trial. He wrote the letter according to their request. A copy of it having come into the hands of Sinclair, Bishop of Ross, and president of the Court of Session, who was a great personal enemy to Knox, he conveyed it immediately to the queen at Stirling. She communicated it to the privy council, who, to her great satisfaction, pronounced it treasonable; but to give the greater solemnity to the proceedings, it was resolved that an extraordinary meeting of the counselors, assisted by other noblemen, should be held at Edinburgh, in the end of December, to try the cause, and the Reformer was summoned to appear before this convention.
Previously to the day of trial, great influence was used in private to persuade him to acknowledge a fault, and to throw himself on the queen’s mercy. This he peremptorily refused to do. The master of Maxwell (afterwards Lord Herries), with whom he had long been intimate, threatened him with the loss of his friendship, and told him that he would repent, if he did not submit to the queen, for men would not bear with him as they had hitherto done. He replied, that he did not understand such language. He had never opposed her majesty except in the article of religion, and surely it was not meant that he should bow to her in that matter; if God stood by him (which he would do as long as he confided in him, and preferred his glory to his own life) he regarded little how men should behave towards him, nor did he know wherein they had borne with him, unless in hearing the word of God from his mouth, which, if they should reject, he would lament it, but the injury would be their own.
The Earl of Murray and Secretary Maitland sent for him to the clerk register’s house, and had a long conversation with him to the same purpose. They represented the pains which they had taken to mitigate the queen’s resentment and intimated that nothing could save him but a timely submission. His reply was similar to that which he had given to Maxwell, that never would he confess a fault when he was conscious of none, and had not learned to “cry treason at every thing which the multitude called treason, nor to fear what they feared.” The wily secretary, finding him determined to abide the consequences of a trial, endeavored to bring on a dispute on the subject, with the view of ascertaining the grounds on which he meant defend himself, but Knox, aware of his craft, declined the conversation, and told him it would be foolish to entrust with his defense one who had already prejudged his cause, and pronounced him guilty.
On the day appointed for the trial, the public anxiety was raised to a high pitch, and the palace-yard and avenues were crowded with people who waited to learn the result. The Reformer was conducted to the chamber in which the lords were already assembled and engaged in consultation. When the queen had taken her seat, and perceived Knox standing uncovered at the foot of the table, she burst into a loud fit of laughter. “That man,” said she, “made me weep, and shed never a tear himself; I will now see if I can make him weep.” The secretary opened the proceedings with greater gravity, by stating, in a speech addressed to the Reformer, the reasons why the queen had convened him before her nobility. “Let him acknowledge his own handwriting,” said the queen, “and then we shall judge of the contents of the letter.” A copy of the circular letter being handed to him, he looked at the subscription and owned that it was his, adding, that though he had subscribed a number of blanks, he had such confidence in the fidelity of the scribe that he was ready to acknowledge the copy as well as the subscription. “You have done more than I would have done,” said Maitland. “Charity is not suspicious,” replied the Reformer. “Well, well,” said the queen, “read your own letter, and then answer to such things as shall be demanded of you.” “I will do the best I can,” said he, and having read the letter with an audible voice, returned it to the queen’s advocate, who was commanded to accuse him.
“Heard you ever, my lords, a more despiteful and treasonable letter?” said the queen looking round the table. “Mr. Knox, are you not sorry from your heart, and do you not repent that such a letter has passed your pen, and from you has come to the knowledge of others?” said Maitland.
“My lord secretary, before I repent, I must be taught my offense.”
“Offense! if there were no more but the convocation of the queen’s lieges, the offense cannot be denied.”
“Remember yourself, my lord; there is a difference between a lawful convocation and an unlawful. If I have been guilty in this, I offended oft since I came last into Scotland, for what convocation of the brethren has ever been to this hour, unto which my pen served not?” “Then was then, and now is now,” said the secretary, “we have no need of such convocations as sometimes we have had.” “The time that has been is even now before my eyes,” rejoined the Reformer, “for I see the poor flock in no less danger than it has been at any time before, except that the devil has got a vizor upon his face. Before, he came in with his own face, discovered by open tyranny, seeking the destruction of all that refused idolatry; and then, I think, you will confess the brethren lawfully assembled themselves for defence of their lives, and now the devil comes under the cloak of justice, to do that which God would not suffer him to do by strength.”
“What is this?” interrupted her majesty, who was offended that he should be allowed such liberty of speech, and thought that she could bring him more closely to the question than any of her counselors. “What is this? Methinks you trifle with him. Who gave him authority to make convocation of my lieges? Is not that treason?” “No, madam,” replied Lord Ruthven, displeased at the keenness which the queen showed in the cause, “for he makes convocation of the people to hear prayers and sermon almost daily, and whatever your grace or others will think thereof, we think it no treason.” “Hold your peace,” said the queen, “and let him make answer for himself.” “I began, madam,” resumed Knox, “to reason with the secretary (whom I take to be a better dialectician than your grace) that all convocations are not unlawful, and now my Lord Ruthven has given the instance.”
“I will say nothing against your religion, nor against your convening to your sermons, but what authority have you to convocate my subjects when you will, without my commandment?”
He answered that at his own will he had never convened four persons in Scotland, but at the orders of his brethren he had given many advertisements, and great multitudes had assembled in consequence of them; and if her grace complained that this had been done without her command, he begged leave to answer that the same objection might be made to all that had been done respecting the reformation of religion in this kingdom. He had never, he said, loved to stir up tumults—never been a preacher of rebellion; on the contrary, he had always taught the people to obey princes and magistrates in all their lawful commands. It he had been more active than the rest of his brethren in calling extraordinary assemblies of the Protestants, it was owing to a charge which he had received from the Church to do so, as often as he saw a necessity for such meetings, and especially when religion was exposed to danger; and he had repeatedly requested to be exonerated from this irksome and invidious charge, but could not obtain his wish. He must therefore be convicted by a just law, before he would profess sorrow for what he had done; he thought he had done no wrong.
“You shall not escape so,” said the queen. “Is it not treason, my lords, to accuse a prince of cruelty? I think there be acts of Parliament against such whisperers.” Several of their lordships said that there were such laws. “But wherein can I be accused of this?” asked Knox. “Read this part of your own letter,” said the queen, who showed herself an acute prosecutor. She then ordered the following sentence to be read from his letter: “This fearful summons is directed against them [the two persons who were indicted], to make no doubt a preparative on a few, that a door may be opened to execute cruelty upon a greater multitude.” “Lo!” exclaimed the queen exultingly, “what say you to that?” The eyes of the assembly were fixed on the Reformer, and all were anxious to know what answer he would make to this charge.
“Is it lawful for me, madam, to answer for myself? or, shall I be condemned unheard?”
“Say what you can, for I think you have enough to do,” said the queen.
“I will first then desire of your grace, madam, and of this most honorable audience whether your grace knows not, that the obstinate Papists are deadly enemies to all such as profess the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that they most earnestly desire the extermination of them, and of the true doctrine that is taught within this realm?”
Mary was silent, but the Lords, with one voice, exclaimed, “God forbid, that ever the lives of the faithful, or yet the staying of the doctrine, stood in the power of the Papists! for just experience has taught us what cruelty lies in their hearts.”
“I must proceed, then,” said the Reformer. “Seeing that I perceive that all will grant that it was a barbarous thing to destroy such a multitude as profess the gospel of Christ within this realm, which oftener than once or twice they have attempted to do by force—they, by God and by his providence being disappointed, have invented more crafty and dangerous practices, to wit, to make the prince a party under colour of law; and so what they could not do by open force, they shall perform by crafty deceit. For who thinks, my lords, that the insatiable cruelty of the Papists (within this realm I mean) shall end in the murdering of these two brethren, now unjustly summoned and more unjustly to be accused? And therefore, madam, cast up, when you list, the acts of your parliament, I have offended nothing against them; for I accuse not, in my letter, your grace, nor yet your nature, of cruelty. But I affirm yet again, that the pestilent Papists, who have inflamed your grace against those poor men at this present, are the sons of the devil, and therefore must obey the desires of their father, who has been a liar and manslayer from the beginning.”
“You forget yourself! you are not now in the pulpit,” said the chancellor.
“I am in a place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.” He added, again addressing the queen, that persons who appeared to be of honest, gentle, and meek natures had often been corrupted by wicked counsel, and that the Papists, who had her ear, were dangerous counselors, and such her mother had found them to be.
Mary, perceiving that nothing was to be gained by reasoning, began now to upbraid him with his harsh behavior to her at their last interview. He spake “fair enough” at present before the lords, she said, but on that occasion he caused her to shed many salt tears, and said, “he set not by her weeping.” This drew from him a vindication of his conduct, in the course of which he gave a narrative of that conference. After this, the secretary, having spoken with the queen, told Knox that he was at liberty to return home for that night. “I thank God and the queen’s majesty,” said he, and retired.
When Knox had withdrawn, the judgment of the nobility was taken respecting his conduct. All of them, with the exception of the immediate dependents of the court, gave it as their opinion that he had not been guilty of any breach of the laws. The secretary, who had assured the queen of his condemnation, was enraged at this decision. He brought her majesty, who had retired, again into the room, and proceeded to call the votes a second time. This attempt to overawe them incensed the nobility. “What!” said they, “shall the laird of Lethington have power to control us? or, shall the presence of a woman cause us to offend God, and to condemn an innocent man, against our consciences?” They then repeated the vote which they had already given, absolving him from all offense, and, at the same time, praising his modest appearance and the judicious manner in which he had conducted his defense.
Mary was unable to conceal the mortification and displeasure which she felt at this unexpected acquittal. When the Bishop of Ross, who had been the informer, gave his vote on the same side with the rest, she taunted him openly in the presence of the court. “Trouble not the child!” said she, “I pray you trouble him not! for he is newly wakened out of his sleep. Why should not the old fool follow the footsteps of those that have passed before him?” The bishop replied coldly that her majesty might easily know, that his vote was not influenced by partiality to the person accused. “That nicht was nyther dancing nor fiddeling in court, for madam was disappoynted of hir purpose, whilk was to have had Johne Knox in hir will, by vote of her nobility.”
From December 1563, when he was acquitted from a charge of treason, to the year 1570, when he was struck with apoplexy
The indignation of the queen at the Reformer’s escape from punishment did not soon abate; and the effects of it fell upon the courtiers who had voted for his exculpation, and upon those who had been unsuccessful in opposing it. The Earl of Murray was among the former, Maitland among the latter. In order to appease her wrath, they again attempted to persuade Knox to soothe her by some voluntary submission, and they engaged that, if he would only agree to go within the walls of the castle, he should be allowed to return immediately to his own house. To this he refused to yield, being convinced, that by such a compliance, he would throw discredit on the judgment of the nobility who had acquitted him, and confess himself to have been a mover of sedition. Disappointed in their object, they endeavored to injure him by whispers and detraction; circulating that he had no authority from his brethren for what he had done; and that he arrogated a papal power over the Scottish Church, by issuing his letters at pleasure, and exacting an implicit obedience to them. These charges were very groundless and unjust; for there never was, perhaps, an individual who possessed as much influence, and at the same time was so careful to avoid all appearance of assuming superiority over his brethren, or of acting by his own private authority in matters of public and common concern.
At the meeting of the General Assembly, held in the close of this year, he declined taking any share in the deliberation, but after the public business had been disposed of, he requested liberty to speak on an affair which concerned himself. He stated what he had done in writing the late circular letter, the proceedings to which it had given rise, and the surmises which were still circulating to his prejudice; and he insisted that the Church should now examine his conduct in that matter, and particularly that they should declare whether or not they had given him a commission to advertise the brethren, when he foresaw any danger threatening their religion, or any difficult case which required their advice. The courtiers strenuously opposed the discussion of this question, but it was taken up, and the Assembly, by a great majority, found that he had been led with such a commission, and that, in the advertisement which he had lately given, he had not exceeded his powers.
Knox had remained a widower upwards of three years. In March 1564, he contracted a second marriage with Margaret Stewart, daughter of Lord Ochiltree, a nobleman of amiable dispositions, who had been long familiar with our Reformer, and had steadily adhered to him when he was deserted by his other friends. She continued to discharge the duties of a wife to him with the most pious and affectionate assiduity until the time of his death. The Popish writers, who envied the honors of the Scottish Reformer, have represented this marriage as proof of his great ambition, and, in the excess of their spleen, have ridiculously imputed to him the project of aiming to raise his progeny to the throne of Scotland, because the family of Ochiltree was of the blood royal! They are quite clear, too, that he gained the heart of the young lady by means of sorcery and the assistance of the devil! But it seems that, powerfully as he was seconded, he could not succeed in another attempt which he had previously made, for the same writers inform us that he paid his addresses to Lady Barbara Hamilton, eldest daughter of the Duke of Chastelherault, and widow of Lord Fleming, by whom he was repulsed. The account of the appearance that he made at the time of his marriage, which shall be inserted in the notes, the reader will receive according to the degree of its probability, and the credit he may think due to the authorities upon which it rests.
The country continued in a state of quietness during the year 1564, but the same jealousies still subsisted between the Court and the Church. Her majesty’s prejudices against the reformed religion were unabated, and she maintained a correspondence with its sworn enemies on the Continent, which could not altogether escape the vigilance of her Protestant subjects. The preachers, on their side, did not relax in their zealous warnings against Popery, and as to the dangers which they apprehended, while they complained of the beggary to which the greater part of their own number was reduced, and of the growing lukewarmness of the Protestant courtiers. The latter felt uneasy under these reproaches, and, in concert with the queen, were anxious to restrain the license of the pulpit. They began by addressing themselves privately to the more moderate and complying of the ministers, whom they gained over by their persuasions to a partial approbation of their measures, and having so far succeeded, they ventured to propose the matter in public and to request the sanction of the leading members of the General Assembly.
Without intending to vindicate the latitude which was taken by particular preachers at that time, it may be said, in general, that a systematic attempt to restrain the liberty of speech in the pulpit, farther than the correction of occasional excesses might require, would have been a measure fraught with danger to the Protestant interest. The reformed preachers were the most vigilant and incorrupt guardians of national liberty, an honorable distinction which their successors maintained during the remainder of that century. It is better to be awaked with rudeness, or even by a false alarm, than to be allowed to sleep on in the midst of dangers. Who would muzzle the mouth of the wakeful animal which guards the house against thieves, because the inmates are sometimes disturbed by his nocturnal vociferation? or substitute in his place a “dumb dog, that cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber?”
Knox, the freedom and sharpness of whose censures the courtiers felt most deeply, was the person whom they chiefly wished to restrain, but it was no easy matter either to overawe him by authority, or by reasoning to procure his acquiescence to their proposals. In the month of June, a conference was held between the principal statesmen and ministers of the Church, when this subject was discussed; and in an elaborate debate with Maitland, Knox defended the leading points of his doctrine which had given offense to the court. This debate “admirably displays the talents and character of both the disputants—the acuteness of the former, embellished with learning, but prone to subtlety; the vigorous understanding of the latter, delighting in bold sentiments and superior to all fear.”
Maitland opened the conference with a plausible speech. He set forth the benefits which they had enjoyed under her majesty’s government and dwelt on the liberty which she had granted them in religious matters; he urged the great importance of the ministers of the Church cultivating her friendship by every good office in their power, and endeavoring to inspire the people with a favorable opinion of her person and administration, and pointed out the hurtful effects of their being observed to disagree in their form of prayer for her, and in their doctrine concerning the duty of subjects. Addressing himself particularly to Knox, he told him, with much politeness and address, that it was the earnest wish of the council that he should study greater caution when he had occasion to speak of her majesty from the pulpit, not that they were afraid of his saying anything very improper, but because the liberty which he used would be taken by persons less modest and prudent. Knox replied to the secretary’s speech. He drew a very different picture of the state of affairs since the queen came to the country, stated the grievances under which the Church labored, and added, that in these circumstances, the courtiers ought not to be surprised at the complaints of the ministers and the liberties which they took in rebuking sins which were openly committed and persisted in, notwithstanding all due admonition. At the same time, he professed his readiness to account for any part of his own conduct which had given offense, and to listen to the objections which might be urged against it.
Maitland specified the mode in which the Reformer usually prayed for her majesty, as one thing which gave offense to him and his colleagues. Prayers and tears, it has often been alleged, are the only arms which Christians ought to employ against injuries. But those who have deprived them of other weapons have usually envied them the use of these also; and if their prayers have been smoothed down to the temper of their adversaries, so as to become mere compliments to princes under color of an address to the Almighty, they have often been pronounced to be seditious and treasonable. Knox repeated his common form of prayer for the queen, and requested to be informed in what respects it was deserving of reprehension. “Ye pray for the queen’s majesty with a condition,” replied Maitland, “saying, ‘Illuminate her heart, if thy good pleasure be.’ Where have ye example of such prayer?” “Wherever the examples are,” rejoined Knox, “I am assured of the rule, ‘If we shall ask any thing according to his will, he will hear us,’ and Christ commanded us to pray, ‘Thy will be done.’” “But in so doing ye put a doubt in the people’s head of her conversion,” said Maitland.
“Not I, my lord, but her own obstinate rebellion causes more than me to doubt of her conversion.”
“Wherein rebels she against God?”
“In all the actions of her life, but in these two heads especially: that she will not hear the preaching of the blessed evangel of Jesus Christ, and that she maintains that idol the mass.”
“She thinks not that rebellion, but good religion.”
“So thought they who offered their children to Moloch, and yet the Spirit of God affirms that they offered them unto devils, and not unto God.”
“But yet ye can produce the example of none that has so prayed before you,” said the secretary, pressing his former objection. “Well, then,” said Knox, “Peter said these words to Simon Magus: ‘Repent of this thy wickedness, and pray to God, that, if it be possible, the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.’ And think ye not, my lord secretary, that the same doubt may touch my heart as touching the queen’s conversion, that then touched the heart of the apostle?” “I would never hear you or any other call that in doubt,” replied Maitland.
“But your will is no assurance to my conscience.”
“Why say ye that she refuses admonitions?” said Maitland, “she will gladly hear any man.”
“But what obedience ensues? or when shall she be seen to give her presence to the public preaching?”
“I think never, so long as she is thus entreated,” replied the secretary. “And so long,” rejoined the Reformer, “ye and all others must be content that I pray so as I may be assured to be heard of my God, either in making her comfortable to his Church, or, if he has appointed her to be a scourge to the same, that we may have patience, and she may be bridled.”
“Well, then,” said the secretary, “let us come to the second head. Where find ye that the Scripture calls any ‘the bond slaves of Satan’? or that the prophets spake so irreverently of kings and princes?” “If the sharpness of the term offend you,” replied the Reformer, “I have not invented that phrase of speaking, but have learned it out of God’s Scriptures, for these words I find spoken unto Paul: ‘Behold, I send thee unto the Gentiles, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ Mark thir words, my lord, and stur not at the speaking of the Holy Ghost.”
The secretary, who, during the greater part of the dispute, leaned on the Master of Maxwell’s breast, said that he was fatigued, and desired some other person to reason with Knox on the point which remained to be discussed, respecting the authority of magistrates and the duty of subjects. Chancellor Morton ordered George Hay to perform this part. Knox was aware that the object of the Court was, if possible, to divide the ministers, and that they would improve any appearance of diversity of opinion among them to the prejudice of the common cause. He therefore told Hay that he had no objections to reason with him, knowing him to be a man of learning and modesty; but he should be sorry to think that they opposed each other, like two scholars of Pythagoras, to show the quickness of their parts by supporting either side of a question; and as he, for his own part, protested that he durst no more support a proposition which he knew to be untrue than he durst teach false doctrine in the pulpit, so he hoped that his brother would, on the present occasion, advance or maintain nothing but what he was persuaded of in his conscience. This caution had the desired effect, and Hay declared, before the whole assembly, that his judgment exactly coincided with Knox’s on the subject proposed for discussion. “Marry,” said the disappointed secretary, “Ye are the well worst of the two, for I remember our reasoning when the queen was at Carrick.”
Perceiving that none of the company was disposed to enter the lists with the Reformer, Maitland again returned to the charge and engaged to defend the uncontrollable authority of rulers. “Well,” said he, “I am somewhat better provided in this last head than I was in the other two. Mr. Knox, yesterday we heard your judgment upon the thirteenth to the Romans; we heard the mind of the apostle well opened; we heard the causes why God has established powers upon earth; we heard the necessity that mankind has of the same; and we heard the duty of magistrates sufficiently declared. But in two things I was offended, and I think some more of my lords that then were present. The one was, ye made difference betwixt the ordinance of God and the persons that are placed in authority, and ye affirmed that men might resist the persons and yet not offend God’s ordinance. The other was that subjects were not bound to obey their princes if they commanded unlawful things, but that they might resist their princes, and were not ever bound to suffer.” Knox said that the secretary had given a correct statement of his sentiments. “How will you prove your division and difference,” said Maitland, “and that the person placed in authority may be resisted, and God’s ordinance not transgressed, seeing that the apostle says, ‘He that resists the power, resists the ordinance of God?’”
Knox replied that the difference was evident from the words of the apostle, and that his affirmative was supported by approved examples. For the apostle asserts that the powers ordained of God are for the preservation of quiet and peaceable men and for the punishment of malefactors, whence it is plain that God’s ordinance is wholly intended for the preservation of mankind, the punishment of vice, and the maintenance of virtue; but the persons placed in authority are often corrupt, unjust, and oppressive. Having referred to the conduct of the people of Israel in rescuing Jonathan from the hands of Saul, which is recorded with approbation, and to the conduct of Doeg, in putting to death the priests at the command of that monarch, which is recorded with disapprobation in Scripture, he proceeded thus: “And now, my lord, in answer to the place of the apostle, I say, that ‘the power’ in that place is not to be understood of the unjust commandment of men, but of the just power wherewith God has armed his magistrates to punish sin and to maintain virtue. As if any man should enterprise to take from the hands of a lawful judge a murderer, an adulterer, or any other malefactor that by God’s law deserved the death, this same man resisted God’s ordinance, and procured to himself vengeance and damnation, because that he stayeth God’s sword to strike. But so it is not, if that men, in the fear of God, oppose themselves to the fury and blind rage of princes, for so they resist not God, but the devil, who abuses the sword and authority of God.”
“I understand sufficiently,” said Maitland, “what you mean, and unto the one part I will not oppose myself, but I doubt of the other. For if the queen would command me to slay John Knox because she is offended at him, I would not obey her; but if she would command others to do it, or yet by a color of justice take his life from him, I cannot tell if I be bound to defend him against the queen, and against her officers.”
“Under protestation,” replied the Reformer, “that the auditory think not that I speak in favors of myself, I say, my lord, that if ye be persuaded of my innocence, and if God hath given you such power or credit as might deliver me, and yet ye suffer me to perish, that in so doing ye should be criminal, and guilty of my blood.”
“Prove that, and win the plea,” said Maitland.
“Well, my lord,” answered Knox, “remember your promise, and I shall be short in my probation.” He then produced the example of Jeremiah, who, when accused by the priests and false prophets, said to the princes, “Know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof.”
“The cases are not like,” said Maitland.
“And I would learn,” said Knox, “wherein the dissimilitude stands.”
“First,” replied Maitland, “the king had not condemned him to death. And next, the false prophets, the priests, and the people accused him without a cause, and therefore they could not but be guilty of his blood.”
“Neither of these fights with my argument,” said Knox, “for, albeit neither the king was present, nor yet had condemned him, yet were the princes and councilors there sitting in judgment, who represented the king’s person and authority. And if ye think that they should all have been criminal only because they all accused him, the plain text witnesses to the contrary, for the princes defended him, and so, no doubt, did a great part of the people, and yet he boldly affirms that they should all be guilty of his blood, if that he should be put to death.”
“Then will ye,” said the secretary, “make subjects to control their princes and rulers?”
“And what harm,” asked the Reformer, “should the commonwealth receive, if the corrupt affections of ignorant rulers were moderated and so bridled by the wisdom and discretion of godly subjects, that they should do wrong or violence to no man?”
The secretary, finding himself hard pushed, said that they had wandered from the argument; and he professed that if the queen should become a persecutor, he would be as ready as any within the realm to adopt the doctrine of the Reformer. “But our question,” said he, “is whether that we may, and ought, to suppress the queen’s mass. Or, whether that her idolatry should be laid to our charge.”
“Idolatry ought not only to be suppressed,” said Knox, “but the idolater ought to die the death.”
“I know,” answered Maitland, “that the idolater ought to die the death; but by whom!”
“By the people,” rejoined the Reformer, “for the commandment was made to Israel, as ye may read, ‘Hear, O Israel, saith the Lord, the statutes and commandments of the Lord thy God,’”
“But there is no commandment given to the people to punish their king if he be an idolater.”
“I find no privilege granted unto kings,” said Knox, “more than unto the people, to offend God’s majesty.”
“I grant,” said the secretary, “but yet the people may not be judge unto their king, to punish him albeit he be an idolater. The people may not execute God’s judgment, but must leave it unto himself, who will either punish it by death, by war, by imprisonment, or by some other kind of plagues.”
“I know,” replied Knox, “the last part of your reason to be true, but, for the first, I am assured ye have no other warrant except your own imagination, and the opinion of such as more fear to offend princes than God.”
“Why say you so?” said Maitland. “I have the judgments of the most famous men within Europe, and of such as ye yourself will confess both godly and learned.” Upon which he produced a bundle of papers and read extracts from the writings of the principal reformed divines against resistance to rulers, adding that he had bestowed more labor on the collection of these authorities than on the reading of commentaries for seven years. Knox replied that it was a pity he had given himself so much labor, for none of the extracts which he had read bore upon the question under discussion, some of them being directed against the Anabaptists, who denied that Christians should be subject to magistrates, or that it was lawful for them to hold the office of magistracy, and the rest referring to the case of a small number of Christians scattered through heathen and infidel countries, which was the situation of the primitive church. In this last case, he said, he perfectly agreed with the writers whom Maitland had quoted, but when the majority of a nation were professors of the true religion, the case was very different. While the posterity of Abraham were few in number, and while they sojourned in different countries, they were merely required to avoid all participation in the idolatrous rites of the heathen, but as soon as they prospered into a kingdom and obtained possession of Canaan, they were strictly charged to suppress idolatry, and to destroy all its monuments and incentives. The same duty was now incumbent on the professors of the true religion in Scotland, whose release from bondage, temporal and spiritual, was no less wonderful than the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. Formerly, when not more than ten persons in a country were enlightened, and when these were called to seal their testimony to the truth, by giving their bodies to the flames, it would have been foolishness to have demanded of the nobility the suppression of idolatry. But now, when knowledge had increased, and God had given such a signal victory to the truth that it had been publicly embraced by the realm, if they suffered the land to be again defiled, both they and their queen should drink of the cup of divine indignation. She, because, amidst the great light of the Gospel, she continued obstinately addicted to idolatry, and they, because they tolerated and even countenanced her in such conduct.
Maitland challenged his opponent to prove that the apostles and prophets ever taught that subjects might suppress the idolatry their rulers. Knox appealed to the conduct of the prophet Elisha in anointing Jehu and giving him a charge to punish the idolatry and bloodshed of the royal family of Ahab. “Jehu was a king before he put anything in execution,” said the secretary.
“My lord, he was a mere subject, and no king, when the prophet’s servant came to him; yea, and albeit that his fellow captains, hearing of the message, blew the trumpet, and said ‘Jehu is king,’ yet I doubt not but Jezebel both thought and said he is a traitor, and so did many others in Israel and Samaria.”
“Besides this,” said Maitland, “the fact is extraordinary, and ought not to he imitated.”
“It had the ground of God’s ordinary judgment, which commands the idolater to die the death,” answered Knox.
“We are not to imitate extraordinary examples,” rejoined Maitland, “unless we have like commandment and assurance.”
Knox granted that this was true when the example was repugnant to the ordinary precept of the law, as in the case of the Israelites borrowing from the Egyptians without repayment. But when example agreed with the law, he insisted that it was imitable, and of this kind was the instances to which he had appealed.
“But,” said Maitland, “whatsoever they did was done at God’s commandment.” “That fortifies my argument,” retorted the Reformer, “for God, by his commandment, has approved that subjects punish their princes for idolatry and wickedness by them committed.” “We have not the like commandment,” said the secretary.
“That I deny, for the commandment that the idolater shall die the death is perpetual, as ye yourself have granted; ye doubted only who should be the executioner, and I have sufficiently proven that God has raised up the people, and by his prophet has anointed a king, to take vengeance upon the king and his posterity, which fact God since that time has never retracted.”
“Ye have produced but one example,” said Maitland.
“One sufficeth, but yet, God be praised, we lack not others, for the whole people conspired against Amaziah, king of Judah, after he had turned away from the Lord.”
“I doubt whether they did well, or not,” said Maitland.
“God gave sufficient approbation of their fact, for he blessed them with victory, peace, and prosperity, the space of fifty-two years after.”
“But prosperity does not always prove that God approves the facts of men.”
“Yes, when the facts of men agree with the law of God, and are rewarded according to his promise, I say that the prosperity succeeding the fact is a most infallible assurance that God has approved the fact. And now, my lord, I have but one example to produce, and then I will put an end to my reasoning because I weary longer to stand.”
The lords desired him to take a chair, but he declined it, saying, “that melancholic reasons needed some mirth to be intermixed with them.” After a short dispute on the resistance of the priests to Uzziah, the Reformer recapitulated the propositions which he thought had been established in the course of the debate. “Well,” said Maitland, “I think ye shall not have many learned men of your opinion.” Knox replied that the truth ceased not to be the truth because men misunderstood or opposed it, and yet he did not want the suffrages of learned men to his opinions. Upon which he presented a copy of the Apology of Magdeburgh, desiring the secretary to look at the names of the ministers who had approved of the defense of that city against the emperor, and subscribed the proposition that to resist a tyrant is not to resist the ordinance of God. “Homines obscuri!” [men of no note] said Maitland, slightingly, after perusing the list. “Dei tamen servi!” [servants of God, however] replied the Reformer.
The secretary now insisted that the questions which they had discussed should be put to the vote, and that the determination of the meeting should fix a rule for uniformity of doctrine among the ministers. Knox protested against this motion and reminded their lordships that the General Assembly had agreed to the present conference upon the express condition that nothing should be voted or decided at it. At last it was agreed that the opinions of those who were present should be taken, but that they should not be considered as decisive. Winram, superintendent of Fife, and Douglas, rector of the university of St. Andrews, were the principal persons among the ministers who agreed in sentiment with the courtiers. Knox’s colleague, in delivering his opinion, took occasion to give an account of a public dispute at which he had been present in Bologna, upon the question whether subjects have a right to control and reform their rulers when they have been guilty of violating their oaths of office. Thomas de Finola, rector of the University, and Vincentius de Placentia, persons celebrated for their learning, maintained the affirmative on this question, and their opinion was adopted after long discussion. “Ye tell us what was done in Bologna,” exclaimed one of the courtiers, “we are in a kingdom, and they are but a commonwealth.” “My lord,” replied Craig, “my judgment is that every kingdom is a commonwealth, or at least should be, albeit that every commonwealth is not a kingdom, and therefore I think that in a kingdom no less diligence ought to be taken that laws be not violated than in a commonwealth, because the tyranny of princes who continually reign in a kingdom is more hurtful to the subjects than the misgovernment of those that from year to year are changed in free commonwealths.” He added that the dispute to which he had referred was conducted on general principles, applicable equally to monarchies and republics, and that one of the conclusions adopted was that, although laws contrary to the law of God and to the true principles of government had been introduced through the negligence of the people or the tyranny of princes, yet the same people, or their posterity, had a right to demand that all things should be reformed according to the original institution of kings and commonwealths.
This speech of Craig alarmed the courtiers as to the issue of vote, and the clerk register took occasion to observe that, at a former conference, it had been agreed that Knox should write to Calvin to obtain his opinion on this question. Knox corrected this statement by saying that the secretary had undertaken to consult that reformer, but although repeatedly reminded of his promise, had never fulfilled it. Maitland acknowledged this, and said that upon mature deliberation he durst not, considering his station, ask advice respecting any controversy between the queen and her subjects, without her majesty’s consent. It was now proposed that Knox should write to Calvin, but he refused to be employed in the business. Before he returned to the kingdom, he said, he had obtained judgment of the most eminent foreign divines on that question, and he could not renew his application to them, without exposing himself to the charge of forgetfulness or inconsistency. The proper course was for them to write, complaining that he had taught such doctrines as he had now defended, and requesting Calvin to communicate his judgment respecting them. This proposal was thought reasonable, but none would undertake task, and the conference broke up without any determinate resolution being adopted.
The reader must be struck with the difference between this dispute and that which Knox formerly maintained with the abbot of Crossraguel. Although long, it was kept up by the disputants with great spirit, nor did they take refuge under those ambiguities of speech or those sophistical forms of argument of which persons trained to wrangle in the schools were ever ready to avail themselves, to perplex an adversary or to conceal their own defeat. Few secretaries of state in modern times would, it is presumed, be able to acquit themselves so well as Maitland did on questions which were decided chiefly by an appeal to the Scriptures. But learned and acute as he was, Knox was fully a match for him, and, on the greater part of the topics introduced into the debate, evidently had the advantage according to the principles held and the concessions made by his opponent. For both parties maintained that idolatry ought to be punished by death, a sentiment which they were led to adopt in consequence of their holding the untenable opinion that Christian nations are bound to enact the same penalties against all breaches of the moral law, which were enjoined by the judicial laws of Moses. This being taken for granted, the dispute between them resolved itself entirely into a question respecting the prerogatives of princes and the rights and duties of subjects. It may be questioned, too, whether Knox’s reasoning from extraordinary examples, qualified as it was by him, is sufficiently guarded and correct, for the instances in which punishment was inflicted in an extraordinary way on criminals, although the punishment itself was merited and agreeable to law, cannot be pleaded as precedents in ordinary cases. But even when we cannot approve of his reasonings, we are compelled to admire the openness with which he avowed, and the boldness with which he defended, sentiments so opposite to those which were generally received in that age.
In the month of August, Knox went, by appointment of the General Assembly, as visitor of the churches, to Aberdeen and other parts of the North, where he remained six or seven weeks. At the subsequent meeting of Assembly, he received a similar appointment to Fife and Perthshire.
Our Reformer’s predictions at the last meeting of parliament were now fully realized. Another parliament was held in the year 1564, but nothing was done for securing the Protestant religion. The queen’s marriage had long engaged the anxious attention of her ministers and had been the subject of much negotiation with England and at foreign courts, but the various proposals which had been made with a view to it, and the political intrigues to which they gave rise, were all thwarted by the sudden and strong passion which Mary conceived for Henry, Lord Darnley, the son of the Earl of Lennox. As this young nobleman, so far as he had discovered any religious sentiments, was inclined to Popery, the match could not be very agreeable to the great body of the nation, who had already testified the strongest jealousy at the queen’s attachment to that religion. It was therefore natural for the nobility, in the prospect of this event, to provide additional securities for the Protestant Church and to insist that the royal sanction, hitherto withheld, should now be granted to its legal establishment. Upon this condition, they promised their consent to the marriage. The queen agreed to summon a parliament to settle this important affair, but she found some pretext for proroguing its meeting, and, having gained a number of the nobility by favors and promises, she proceeded, in July 1565, not only to solemnize the nuptials, but to proclaim her husband king, without the consent of the estates of the kingdom.
The dissatisfaction produced by these precipitate and illegal steps was heightened by the conduct of Darnley. Naturally vain, rash, and vindictive, his unexpected prosperity rendered him insolent and overbearing; and it required all the prudence of the queen to preserve him from falling into contempt, even before their marriage. Although he could not have come to Scotland, and his father could not have been restored to his honors and possessions, considering the opposition made by the of Hamilton, without the concurrence and interest of the of Murray, yet he no sooner found himself seated in the affections of Mary, than he exerted his influence to deprive that nobleman of her favor, represented the honors which she had conferred on him as excessive, and leagued with those who were hostile to him and to the reformed religion. Lennox Athole and David Rizzio, a low-bred Italian, who had insinuated himself into the good graces of Mary, now ruled the court to the exclusion of the most able counselors. Murray had been urged in private to sign an approbation of the intended marriage, but refused to do it until the nobility were consulted. His refusal to gratify the queen by forwarding a match on which she was passionately bent, obliterated the memory of all his past services and drew upon him the furious resentment of Darnley. Having declined to attend a convention at Perth, from just apprehensions of personal danger, he was summoned to court by the queen. The summons was repeated three days after her marriage, and, because he refused to entrust his person, on her safe-conduct, to a court where the influence of his declared enemies prevailed, he was immediately proclaimed an outlaw. In the meantime, the persons who had discovered the greatest hostility to him were openly encouraged. Bothwell was invited to return; Lord George Gordon was set at liberty, and the earldom of Huntly restored to him; and the Earl of Sutherland was recalled from banishment. The lords who were dissatisfied with the late proceedings assembled at Stirling, and, after agreeing to request the protection of Elizabeth, retired to their houses; but the queen, taking the field with all the forces which she could collect, they were at last compelled to arm in their own defense. Even after they were driven to this extremity, they neglected no means of conciliation. They professed their steadfast loyalty to the queen. They declared that their sole desire was that the reformed religion should be secured against the dangers to which it was exposed, and that the administration of public affairs should be put into the hands of those whom the nation could trust. And they offered to submit their own cause to be tried by the laws of their country. But the queen spurned all their offers of submission, refused to listen to any intercession in their favor, and, advancing against them with an army, obliged them to take refuge in England.
While her marriage with Darnley was in dependence, and she labored to surmount the opposition made to it by the nobility, Mary had condescended to court the Protestant ministers. Having sent for the superintendents of Lothian, Glasgow, and Fife (for Knox could not now be admitted to her presence), she amused them with fair words. She was not yet persuaded she of the truth of their religion, but was willing to hear conference and reasoning on the subject; she was also content to attend the public sermons of some of them, and, “above all others, she would gladly hear the superintendent of Angus, for he was a mild and sweet-natured man, with true honesty and uprightness, Sir John Erskine of Dun.” She even went so far as to be present at a sermon preached by one of the ministers in Callender house, at the baptism of a child of Lord Livingston. But as soon as her marriage was accomplished, she told the commissioners of the Church, in very plain and determined language, “Her majesty neither will nor may leave the religion wherein she has been nourished and brought up.” And there was no farther proposals of attending either sermon or conference.
The friendship between the Earl of Murray and the Reformer had been renewed in the beginning of 1565. Knox was placed in a very delicate predicament by the insurrection under Murray and the other lords who opposed the queen’s marriage. His father-in-law was one of their number. They professed security of the Protestant religion was the principal ground of their taking arms, and they came to Edinburgh to collect men to their standard. But whatever favor he might have them, he kept himself clear from any engagement. If he had taken part in this unsuccessful revolt, we need not doubt that that her majesty would have embraced the opportunity of punishing him for it, when his principal friends had fled the kingdom.
We find, in fact, that she immediately proceeded against him on a different but far more slender ground. The young king, who could be either Papist or Protestant, as it suited him, went sometimes to mass with the queen, and sometimes attended the reformed sermons. To silence the suspicions of his alienation from the Protestant religion, circulated by the insurgent lords, he on the nineteenth of August, made a solemn appearance in St. Giles’s Church, sitting on a throne which had been prepared for his reception. Knox preached that day and happened to prolong the service beyond his usual time. In one part of the sermon, he quoted these words of Scripture: “I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them”; in another part of it, he mentioned that God punished Ahab because he did not correct his idolatrous wife Jezebel. Though no particular application was made by the preacher, the king applied these passages to himself and the queen, and, returning to the palace in great wrath, refused to taste dinner. The Papists who had accompanied him to church inflamed his resentment and that of the queen by their representations.
That very afternoon Knox was taken from bed and carried before the privy council. Some respectable inhabitants of the city, understanding his citation, accompanied him to the palace. He was told that he had offended the king and must desist from preaching as long as their majesties were in Edinburgh. He replied, that “he had spoken nothing but according to his text, and if the Church should command him to speak or abstain, he would obey, so far as the word of God would permit him.” Spotswood says that he not only stood to what he had said in the pulpit, but added, “That as the king, for the queen’s pleasure, had gone to mass, and dishonored the Lord God, so should He in his justice make her the instrument of his overthrow.” “This speech,” continues the archbishop’s manuscript, “esteemed too bold at the time, came afterwards to be remembered, and was reckoned among other of his prophetical sayings, which certainly were marvelous. The queen, enraged at this answer, burst forth into tears.”
The report of the inhibition laid upon the Reformer created great agitation in the city. His colleague, who was appointed supply his place during his suspension, threatened to desist entirely from preaching. The town council met and appointed a deputation to wait on their majesties and request the reversal of the sentence, and at a second meeting held on the same day, came to a unanimous resolution that they would “in no manner of way consent or grant that his mouth be closed,” but that he should be desired, “at his pleasure, and as God should move his heart, to proceed forward to true doctrine as before, which doctrine they would approve and abide at to their life’s end.”
It does not appear that he continued any time suspended from preaching. For the king and queen left Edinburgh before next Sabbath, and the prohibition extended only to the time of their residence in the city. Upon their return, it is probable that they judged it advisable not to enforce an order which had already created much discontent and might alienate the minds of people still farther from the present administration. Accordingly, we find him exercising his ministry in Edinburgh with the same boldness as formerly. Complaints were made to the council of the manner in which he prayed for the exiled noblemen, but secretary Maitland, who had formerly found so much fault with his prayers, defended them on the present occasion, saying that he had heard them and they were such as nobody could blame.
Christopher Goodman had officiated, with much approbation, as minister of St. Andrews since the year 1560, but he was prevailed on, by the solicitations of his friends in England, to return about this time to his native country. The commissioners from St. Andrews were instructed to petition the General Assembly, which met in December this year, that Knox should be translated from Edinburgh to their city. They claimed a right to him, as he had commenced his ministry among them, and they might think that the dissensions in which he was involved with the court would induce him to prefer a more retired situation. But their petition was refused.
This Assembly imposed on him several important services. He was commissioned to visit the churches in the South of Scotland, and appointed to write “a comfortable letter” to encourage the ministers, exhorters, and readers throughout the kingdom to persevere in the discharge of their functions, which many of them were threatening to abandon on account of the non-payment of their stipends, and to excite the people among whom they labored to relieve their necessities. He had formerly received an appointment to draw up the Form of Excommunication and of Public Repentance. And he was now required to compose a Treatise of Fasting. The Assembly, having taken into consideration the troubles of the country, and the dangers which threatened the whole Protestant interest, had appointed a general fast to be kept through the kingdom. The form and order to be observed on that occasion they left to be drawn out by Knox and his colleague, and as nothing had been hitherto published expressly on this subject, they were authorized to explain the duty, as well as to state the reasons, which at that period called for this solemn exercise. This treatise does credit to the compilers, both as to matter and form. It is written in a perspicuous and nervous style. In the grounds assigned for fasting, the critical state of all reformed churches, the late decree of the council of Trent for the extirpation of the Protestant name, the combination of the Popish princes for carrying it into execution, and the persecutions suffered by their brethren in different countries, are all held forth as a warning to the Protestants of Scotland and urged as calls to repentance and prayer.
The following may serve as a specimen: “Supposing, we say, that wee had none of these foresaid causes to moove us, yet is there one which, if it moove us not to humiliation, wee show ourselves more than insensible. For now is Satan so enlarged against Jesus Christ, and so odious is the light of his gospel unto the Romaine antichrist, that to suppresse it in one province, realme, or nation, he thinketh it nothing, unlesse that, in all Europe the godly, and such as abhorre the papisticall impietie, be therewith also utterlie destroyed, and so rased from the face of the earth, that no memory of them shal after remaine. If any thinks that suche crueltie cannot fall into the hearts of men, we send them to be resolved of those fathers of the last councel of Trent, who, in one of their sessions, have thus concluded: All Lutherans, Calvinists, and such as are of the new religion, shall utterly be rooted out. The beginning shall be in France, by conducting of the Catholike king, Philip of Spaine, and by some of the nobilitie of France; which matter (they say) put in execution, the whole power of both, together with the pope’s armie, and force of the Duke of Savoy and Ferrar, shall assault Geneva, and shall not leave it till that they have put it to sacke, saving in it no living creature. And with the same mercie shall so many of France as have tasted of the new religion be served. From thence expedition shall be made against the Germanes, to reduce them to the obedience of the apostolike seate. And so shall they proceed to other realmes and nations, never ceasing till that all be rooted out that will not make homage to that Romane idoll.
“How fearefull a beginning this conclusion and determination had, France will remember moe ages than one. For how manie, above a hundredth thousand women, babes, virgines, matrones, and aged fathers suffered, some by sworde, some by water, some by fire, and other torments, the eerie enemies themselves are compelled to acknowledge. And albeit that God of his mercie in part disappoynted their cruell enterprises, yet let us not thinke that their will is changed, or their malice asswaged. No; let us be assured that they abide but opportunitie to finish the worke that cruellie against God, against his trueth and the true professours of the same, they have begunne the whisperings whereof are not secreete, neither yet the tokens obscure. For the traffike of that dragon now with the princes of the earth, his promises and flattering enticements, tende to none other ende but to inflame them against Jesus Christ, and against the true professours of his gospel. For who can thinke that the pope, cardinals, and horned bishops will offer the greatest portion of their rents for sustaining of a warre, whereof no commoditie should redound (as they suppose) to themselves?”
Having quoted that part of the decree of the council which relates to the assessment imposed on the clergy for carrying on this holy war, the compilers of the treatise add, “But let us hear their conclusion: France and Germanie (say they), being by these meanes so chastised, abased, and brought to the obedience of the holy Romane Church, the fathers doubt not but time shall provide both counsell and commoditie, that the rest of the realmes about may be reduced to one flocke, and one apostolike governour and pastour. But some shall say, they are yet far from the end of their purpose, and therefore wee neede not be so fearefull nor so troubled. We answere, the danger may be nearer than we beleeve, yea, perchance a part of it hath bene nearer to our neckes than we have considered. But how so ever it be, seeing that God of his mercie hath brought foorth to light their cruell and bloodie counsell, in which we neede not to doubt but still they continue, it becummeth us not to be negligent or slouthful.”
Strong as their apprehensions were, the danger was nearer to them than they imagined. The most zealous and powerful of the Protestant nobles being exiled, the queen determined to carry into execution the design of which she had never lost sight; and while she amused the nation with proclamations against altering the received religion, and tantalized the ministers with offers of more adequate support, was preparing for the speedy restoration of the Roman Catholic worship. No means were left unattempted for gaining over the nobility to the ancient religion. The king openly professed himself a convert to it, and officiated in some of its most superstitious rites. The Earls of Lennox, Cassilis, and Caithness, with Lords Montgomery and Seton, followed his example. The friars were employed to preach at Holyroodhouse, and, to gain the favor of the people, endeavored to imitate the popular method of the Protestant preachers. In the beginning of February 1566, a messenger arrived from the Cardinal of Lorraine, with a copy of the Catholic league for extirpating the Protestants, and instructions to obtain the queen’s subscription to it, and to urge the propriety of adopting the most rigorous measures against the exiled noblemen. Mary scrupled not to set her hand to the league. Previous to this, it is said that she was inclined to yield to the intercessions made in behalf of the exiles; but if ever she felt such a disposition, it is certain that, from the arrival of this embassy, the door of mercy was shut. Murray and his associates were immediately summoned to appear before the parliament which was to meet on the twelfth of March. The lords of the Articles were chosen according to the queen’s pleasure; the Popish ecclesiastics were restored to their place in parliament; and the altars to be erected in St. Giles’s Church, for the celebration of the Roman Catholic worship, were already prepared.
But these measures, when ripe for execution, were blasted, in consequence of a secret engagement which the king had entered into with some of the Protestant nobles. The first effect produced by this engagement was the well known assassination of Rizzio, the unworthy favorite of the queen, who was the who was the principal instigator of the measures against the Protestant religion and the banished lords, and had now incurred the jealousy of the king, as well as the contempt of the nobility and the hatred of the people. To have removed this minion from her majesty’s counsels and presence by legitimate means would have been meritorious, but the manner in which it was accomplished was equally inconsistent with law and humanity, and fixes a deep stigma on the characters of those who perpetrated the deed.
A complete change on the state of the court succeeded this event. The Popish counselors fled from the palace; the exiled lords returned out of England; and the parliament was prorogued, without accomplishing any of the objects for which it had been assembled. But Mary soon persuaded the weak and uxorious king to desert the noblemen whom he had made the instruments of his revenge, to retire with her to Dunbar, and to issue a proclamation, disowning his consent to the late attempt, by which he exposed himself to the contempt of the nation, without regaining her affection. Having collected an army, she returned to Edinburgh, threatening to inflict the most exemplary vengeance on all who had been accessory to the murder of her secretary and the indignity shown to her person. She found herself, however, unable to resume her former plans, and, while the conspirators against Rizzio were forced to flee to England, the Earl of Murray and the other lords who had opposed her marriage were allowed to remain in the country and soon after pardoned.
When the queen returned to Edinburgh, Knox left it and retired to Kyle. There is no reason to think that he was privy to the conspiracy which proved fatal to Rizzio. But it is probable that he had expressed his satisfaction at an event which contributed to the safety of religion and the commonwealth, if not also his approbation of the object of the conspiracy. At any rate, he was sufficiently obnoxious to the queen on other grounds, and as her resentment, on the present occasion, was exceedingly inflamed, it was deemed prudent for him to withdraw.
Having at last “got quit” of one who had so long been troublesome to her, Mary was determined to prevent his return to the capital. The town council and inhabitants, who had formerly refused to acquiesce in his suspension from preaching for a short time, exerted themselves to obtain his restoration, and powerful intercession was made in his behalf by many of the nobility and gentry. But the queen was deaf to all entreaties. She was even unwilling that he should find a refuge within the kingdom, and wrote to a nobleman in the west country, with whom he resided, to banish him from his house. It does not appear that he returned to Edinburgh, or, at least, that he resumed his ministry in it, until the queen was deprived of the government.
Being banished from his flock, he judged this a favorable opportunity for paying a visit to England. Parental affection increased the desire which he had long felt to accomplish this journey. His two sons had been lately sent by him into that kingdom, to reside with some of their mother’s relations, and to obtain their education in the English seminaries. Having procured the safe-conduct of Elizabeth, he applied to the General Assembly, which met in December 1566, for their permission to remove. This was readily granted by them, upon condition of his returning against the time of their next meeting in June. The Assembly likewise gave him a most ample and honorable testimonial, in which they describe him as “a true and faithful minister, in doctrine pure and sincere, in life and conversation in our sight inculpable,” and one who “has so fruitfully used that talent granted him by the Eternal, to the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and edifying of them who heard his preaching, that of duty we must heartily praise His godly name, for that so great a benefit granted unto him for our utility and profit.”
Knox was charged with a letter from the General Assembly to the bishops and ministers of England, interceding for lenity to such of their brethren as scrupled to use the sacerdotal dress enjoined by the laws. The controversy on that subject was at this time carried on with great heat among the English clergy. It is not improbable that the Assembly interfered in this business at the desire of Knox, to whom the composition of the letter was committed. He could not have forgotten the trouble which he had himself suffered on a similar ground, and he had a high regard for many of the scruplers. This interposition did not procure them any relief. Though the superior clergy had been more zealous to obtain it than they were, Elizabeth was inflexible, and would listen neither to the supplications bishops nor to the advice of her counselors. Knox’s good opinion of the English queen does not seem to have been improved by this visit.
He performed one important piece of public service before undertaking this journey to England. On the twenty-third of December, the queen granted a commission, under the privy seal, to the Archbishop of St. Andrews, restoring him to his ancient jurisdiction, which had been abolished in 1560, by act of parliament. This step was taken, partly to prepare for the restoration of the Popish religion, and partly to facilitate another dark design which was soon after disclosed. The Protestants could not fail to be both alarmed and enraged at this daring measure. Moved by his own zeal no less than by the advice of his brethren, the Reformer addressed a circular letter to the principal Protestants in the kingdom, requesting their immediate advice on the measures most proper to be adopted on this occasion, and enclosing a copy of a proposed supplication to the queen. This letter discovers all the ardor of the writer’s spirit, called forth by such an alarming occurrence. After mentioning the late acts for the provision of the ministry, by which the queen attempted to blind them, he says, “How that any such assignation, or any promise made thereof, can stand in any stable assurance, when that Roman antichrist, by just laws once banished from this realm, shall be intrusted above us, we can no ways understand. Yea, farther, we cannot see what assurance can any within this realm, that hath professed the Lord Jesus, have of life, or inheritance, if the head of that odious beast be cured among us. As from the beginning we have neither spared substance nor life, so mind we not to faint unto the end, to maintain the same, so long as we can find the concurrence of brethren, of whom (as God forbid) if we be destitute, yet we are determined never to be subject to the Roman antichrist, neither yet to his usurped tyranny; but when we can do no farther to suppress that odious beast, we mind to seal it with our blood to our posterity, that the bright knowledge of Jesus Christ hath banished that Man of Sin, and his venomous doctrine, from our hearts and consciences. Let this our letter and request bear witness before God, before his Church, before the world, and before your own consciences.” The supplication of the General Assembly to the lords of the privy council, on the same subject, also bears marks of the Reformer’s pen.
During the time that Knox was in England, that tragedy, so well known in Scottish history, was acted, which led to a complete revolution in the government of the kingdom, and, contrary to the designs of the principal actors, threw the power wholly into the hands of the Protestants. Mary’s affection for her husband, which had cooled soon after their marriage, was, from the time of Rizzio’s assassination, converted into a fixed hatred, which she was at tittle pains to conceal. The birth of an heir to the crown produced no reconciliation between the royal parents; the king was not allowed to be present at the baptism of his own son, and was treated with such marked disrespect, even by the servants, that he abandoned the court, and shut himself up in his father’s house. In proportion as the queen’s mind was alienated from her husband, the unprincipled Earl of Bothwell grew in her favor. He engrossed the whole management of public affairs, was loaded with honors, and treated by her majesty with every mark of personal regard and affection. In these circumstances, the neglected, unhappy king, decoyed to Edinburgh, lodged in a solitary dwelling at the extremity of the city, and murdered on the morning of the tenth of February, 1567, the house in which he lay being blown up gunpowder.
It would be unsuitable to the nature of the present work to enter into the controversy respecting the authors of this murder, which has been agitated with uncommon keenness from that day to the present time. The accusation of the Earl of Murray as a party to the deed is destitute of all proof and incredible. It was at first circulated with the evident design of turning away the public mind from the real perpetrators; it was insinuated, and afterwards directly brought forward, in the conferences at York and Westminster, as a retaliation upon him for the charge which he exhibited against the queen; and it is now kept up only by the most blind and bigoted of her fans. That Bothwell was the prime contriver and agent in the murder, cannot admit of a doubt with any impartial and judicious inquirer. And that Mary was privy to the design, and accessory to its execution by permission and approbation, there is, I think, all the evidence, moral and legal, which could reasonably be expected in a case of this kind. The whole of her behavior towards the king, from the time that she brought him from Glasgow till she left him on the fatal night; the remissness which she discovered in inquiring into the murder; the shameful manner in which she suffered the farce of Bothwell’s trial to be conducted; the glaring act (which struck the whole of Europe, and even her own friends, with horror) of taking to her bed, with indecent haste, the man who was stigmatized as the murderer of her husband; and the manner in which she refused to defend herself, and broke off the conference to which she had agreed, as soon as the charge to accession to the murder was brought against her; afford the strongest presumptions of her guilt; and, when taken in connection with the direct evidence arising from letters and depositions, would have been sufficient long ago to shut the mouths of any but the defend of Mary Queen of Scots.
Knox was absent from Edinburgh at the time of the queen’s marriage with Bothwell; but his colleague ably supported the honor of his place and order on that occasion, when the whole nobility of Scotland preserved a passive and disgraceful silence. Being required by both the parties to publish the banns, Craig reluctantly complied, after taking the advice of his session; but, at the same time, he protested from the pulpit, on three several days, and took heaven and earth to witness, that he abhorred and detested the intended marriage as unlawful and scandalous, and solemnly charged the nobility to use their influence to prevent the queen from taking a step which would inevitably cover her with infamy and involve her in ruin. Being called before the council, and accused of having exceeded the bounds of his commission, he boldly replied that the bounds of his commission were the word of God, good laws, and natural reason, to all of which the proposed marriage was contrary. And Bothwell being present he charged him with the crime of adultery, the precipitancy with which the process of divorce had been carried through, and the suspicions entertained of collusion between him and his wife, of his having murdered the king and ravished the queen, all of which would be confirmed if they carried their purpose into execution.
The events which followed in rapid succession upon this infamous marriage—the confederation of the nobility for revenging the king’s death and preserving the person of the infant prince, the flight of Bothwell, the surrender and imprisonment of Mary, her resignation of the government, the coronation of her son, and the appointment of the Earl of Murray as regent during his minority, are all well known to the readers of Scottish history.
Knox seems to have returned to his charge at the time that the queen fled with Bothwell to Dunbar. He was present in the general Assembly which met at Edinburgh on the twenty-fifth of June, and was delegated by them to go to the west country, and endeavor to persuade the Hamiltons, and others who stood aloof from the confederated lords to join with them in settling the distracted affairs of the country, and to attend a general convention of the delegates of the churches, to be held on the twentieth of July following. In this negotiation he was unsuccessful. But the convention was held, and the nobles, barons, and commissioners of boroughs who were present subscribed a number of important articles with reference to religion and the state of the nation.
On the twenty-ninth of July, 1567, the Reformer preached the sermon the coronation of James VI in the parish church of Stirling. He objected to the ceremony of unction as a Jewish rite abused under the Papacy, but it was deemed inexpedient, on the present occasion, to depart from the accustomed ceremonial. It was therefore performed by the bishop of Orkney, the superintendents of Lothian and Angus assisting him to place the crown on the king’s head. After the coronation, Knox, along with some others, took instruments and craved extracts of the proceedings.
When the queen was confined by the lords in the castle of Lochleven, they had not resolved in what manner they should dispose of her person for the future. Some proposed that she should be allowed to leave the kingdom, some that she should be imprisoned during life, while others insisted that she ought to be capitally arraigned. Of this last opinion was Knox, with almost all the ministers, and the great body of the people. The chief ground upon which they insisted for this was not her maladministration in the government, or the mere safety and peace of the commonwealth, which were the reasons upon which the parliament of England, in the following century, proceeded to the execution of her grandson. But they founded their opinion upon the personal crimes with which Mary was charged. Murder and adultery, they reasoned, were crimes to which the punishment of death was allotted by the law of God and of nations. From this penalty persons of no rank could plead exception. The ordinary forms of judicial procedure made no provision for the trial of a supreme magistrate, because the laws did not suppose that such enormous crimes could be committed by him, but extraordinary cases required extraordinary remedies, and new offenses gave birth to new laws. There are examples in Scripture of the capital punishment of princes, nor are precedents of it wanting to the history of Scotland.
Upon these grounds, Knox scrupled not publicly to maintain that the estates of the kingdom ought to bring Mary to a trial, and, if she was found guilty of the murder of her husband and an adulterous connection with Bothwell, that she ought to be put to death. Throkmorton, the English ambassador, held a conference with him, with the view of mitigating the rigor of this judgment; but though he acquiesced in the resolution adopted by the nobility to detain her in prison, he retained his own sentiments, and, after the civil war was kindled by her escape from confinement, repeatedly said that he considered the nation as suffering for their criminal lenity.
Though the Earl of Murray, after his return from banishment, had been pardoned and re-admitted to his place in the privy council, he did not regain the confidence of her majesty. Perceiving the ruinous tendency of the course on which she was bent, and despairing of being able to prevent it by his advice, he declined taking any active part in the management of public affairs, and appeared very seldom at court. Soon after the king was murdered, he obtained liberty to leave the kingdom, and retired to France, where he remained till recalled by a message from the confederated lords, after Mary had subscribed the instruments by which she resigned the crown, and appointed him regent during the minority of her son. Having arrived in Scotland, he was formally invested with the regency, on the twenty-second of August, 1567. No sooner was he confirmed in the government, than he exerted himself with great zeal and prudence to secure the peace of the kingdom, and settle the affairs of the Church. A parliament being summoned to meet in the middle of December, he, with the advice of the privy council, previously nominated certain barons, and commissioners of boroughs, to consult upon and digest such overtures as were proper to be laid before that assembly. With these he joined Knox and four other ministers to assist in matters which related to the Church. This committee met in the beginning of December, and sat until the opening of the parliament. The record of their proceedings, both as to civil and ecclesiastical affairs, has been preserved; and, as many of their propositions were not adopted by the parliament, it is valuable as a declaration of the sentiments of a number of the most able men in the kingdom.
On the fifteenth of December, Knox preached at the opening of parliament, and exhorted them to begin with the affairs of religion, in which case they would find better success in their other business. The parliament ratified all the acts which had been passed in 1560 in favor of the Protestant religion and against Popery. New statutes of a similar kind were added. It was provided that no prince should afterwards be admitted of authority in the kingdom, without taking an oath to maintain the Protestant religion, and that none but Protestants should be admitted to any office, with the exception of those that were hereditary or held for life. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction, exercised by the assemblies of the Church, was formally ratified, and commissioners appointed to define more exactly the causes which came within the sphere of their judgment. The thirds of benefices were appointed to be paid at first hand to collectors nominated by the Church, who, after paying the stipends of the ministers, were to account to the exchequer for the surplus. And the funds of provostries, prebendaries, and chaplainries were appropriated to maintain bursars in colleges.
In the act ratifying the jurisdiction of the Church, Knox was appointed one of the commissioners for drawing out the particular points which pertained to ecclesiastical judgment, to be presented to next meeting of parliament. The General Assembly, which met about the same time, gave him a commission, along with some others, to act for them in this matter, and, in general, to consult with the regent and council on such ecclesiastical questions as might occur after their dissolution. He was pointed to assist the superintendent of Lothian in his visitation, and afterward to visit the churches in Kyle, Carrick, and Cunningham.
During the regency of Murray there were no jars between the Church and the Court, nor any of those unpleasant complaints which had been made at every meeting of the General Assembly before that period, and which were renewed under the succeeding regents. All the grievances of which they complained were not, indeed, redressed; and the provision made by law was still inadequate for the support of such an ecclesiastical establishment as the nation required, including the seminaries of education. But the regent not only received the addresses of the General Assemblies in a “manner very different from that to which they had been accustomed,” but showed a disposition to grant their petitions whenever it was in his power. It was chiefly through his influence that the favorable arrangement concerning the thirds of benefices was made, and he endeavored, though unsuccessfully, to obtain the consent of parliament to the dissolution of the prelacies and the appropriation of their revenues to the common fund of the Church.
Our Reformer had now reached the point from which he could take a calm and deliberate view of the bustling scene through which he had passed, and of the arduous struggle which he had been so long engaged in, and had at length brought to a happy termination. Papal superstition and tyranny were suppressed and abolished by law; the Protestant religion was established; the supreme government of the nation was in the hands of one in whose wisdom and integrity he had the greatest confidence; the Church was freed from many of those grievances under which she had hitherto groaned, and enjoyed the prospect of obtaining the redress of such as still remained. The work on which his heart had been so ardently set for such a long period, and for the success of which he had so often trembled, had prospered beyond his utmost expectation. He now congratulated himself on the prospect of being released from all burden of public affairs, and of spending the remainder of his days in religious meditations, and in preparation for that event of whose near approach he was daily admonished by the increasing infirmities of his body. He even secretly cherished the wish of resigning his charge in Edinburgh, and of retiring to that privacy from which he had been drawn at the commencement of the Scottish Reformation. Speaking of the congregation of which he had been pastor at Geneva, he says, on one of his confidential letters, “God comfort that dispersed little flock, among whom I lived with quietness of conscience and contentment of heart; and amongst whom I would be content to end my days, if so it might stand with God’s good pleasure. For, seeing it hath pleased his majesty, above all expectations, to prosper the work for the performing whereof I left that company, I would even as gladly return to them, if they stood in need of my labours, as ever I was to be delivered from the rage of mine enemies. I can give you no reason that I should so desire, other than that my heart so thirsteth.”
But “the way of man is not in himself.” Providence had allotted him further trials of a public nature; he was yet to see the security of the reformed religion endangered, and the country involved in another civil war, even more distressing than the former, inasmuch as the principal persons on both sides were professed Protestants.
From the time that the queen was imprisoned, and the government transferred to the young prince under the regency of Murray, a considerable number of the nobility had withheld approbation of these proceedings. The Popish party were decidedly attached to Mary, and inimical to a revolution, which crushed the hopes which they had all along cherished of accomplishing the restoration of the ancient religion. Others, though professed Protestants, were induced by various motives to oppose the new government. Argyle was at this time alienated from Murray by a family quarrel. The house of Hamilton followed that line of narrow and interested policy which they had adopted on former occasions of a similar kind. They were jealous lest the late settlement of the crown should inflate the right of their chief, the Duke of Chastelherault, to the successionn and they were offended that the regent which they considered as due to him, should have been conferred on Murray. No governor can gratify the expectations of all, and some of those who were early friends of the regent or had contributed to his advancement, thought that they were not sufficiently rewarded. The very means which he found it necessary to employ to restore tranquility and order to the kingdom, created him enemies. During the late confusions, many parts of the country had fallen into a state of anarchy, and the northern counties and the borders presented nothing but scenes of rapine and bloodshed. It was impossible to repress these disorders without making severe examples of the most guilty, and the turbulent and licentious naturally sought the overthrow of a government by which they felt themselves overawed and restrained. But the abilities of the regent enabled him to overcome these difficulties, and he was daily receiving submissions from the most powerful of the opposite party, when, on the second of May, 1568, the queen escaped from her confinement in Lochleven. The discontented nobles immediately joined her standard, and, having mustered a large force, avowed their determination to restore her to the exercise of that authority which she had renounced by constraint. This formidable insurrection was defeated by the promptitude of the regent, and, in consequence of the battle of Langside, Mary was driven into England, and her party broken. Elizabeth having procured herself to be chosen umpire between the two parties, the conferences were protracted during so long a period, and the conduct of the English court was so equivocal and contradictory, that the friends of Mary were encouraged to renew their attempts to restore her by force of arms. But although the Duke of Chastelherault returned from France with a large sum of money contributed by the Popish princes, and came into Scotland in the character of lieutenant of the queen, the regent, by his vigilance and his vigorous measures, prevented any insurrection, and preserved the kingdom in obedience to the young king’s authority.
Despairing to accomplish their darling object during his life, the partisans of Mary resolved to cut off Murray by private means. During the year 1566, two persons were employed assassinate him, but the design was discovered and prevented. This did not hinder new machinations. Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a nephew of the Archbishop of St. Andrews, undertook to perpetrate the deed. He was one of the prisoners taken at the battle of Langside, but, after being arraigned, condemned, and brought out to execution, he had his life given him by the regent, and was soon after set at liberty along with the other prisoners. It is said that he was actuated by revenge, on account of an injury which he had received by detaining one of his forfeited estates, or by the cruel manner in which his wife had been dispossessed of it. Whether this was really the case, or whether it was alleged to diminish the odium of his crime, and turn it away from his party, cannot perhaps be now certainly determined. But it does not appear that any part of the regent’s conduct towards him was such as to afford the slightest alleviation of a crime, in the commission of which he burst the ties of gratitude, as well as humanity and justice. On the other hand, there is ample proof that he was incited by the political party with which he was connected. Having formed his resolution, he deliberately followed the regent in his progress to Glasgow, Stirling, and Linlithgow; and, finding an opportunity in the last of these places, shot him through the body with a musket-ball. The wound proved mortal, and the regent died the same evening. While some of his friends, who stood round his bed, lamented the excessive lenity which he had shown to his enemies, and particularly to his murderer, he replied, with a noble and Christian spirit, that nothing would ever make him repent of an act of clemency.
The consternation which is usually produced by the fall of a distinguished leader was absorbed in the deep distress which the tidings of the regent’s murder spread through the nation. The common people, who had experienced the beneficial effects of his short administration, to a degree altogether unprecedented in the country, felt as if each had lost a father, and loudly demanded vengeance upon the authors of the parricide. Many who had envied or hated him during his life were now forward to do justice to his virtues. Those who had not been able to conceal their satisfaction on the first intelligence of his death became ashamed of the indecent exultation which they had so imprudently expressed. The Hamiltons were anxious to clear themselves from the imputation of a crime which they saw to be universally detested. They dismissed the murderer, who was glad to escape from ignominy by condemning himself to perpetual banishment. The only one of his crimes for which the Archbishop of St. Andrews afterwards expressed contrition before his execution, was his accession to the murder of the regent. Nor were these feelings confined to Scotland; the sensation was general through England, and the expressions of grief and condolence from that country evinced the uncommon esteem in which he was held by all ranks.
The house in which Bothwellhaugh concealed himself, while he committed the murder, belonged to the Archbishop of St. Andrews, who acknowledged that he was privy and accessory to the deed. The horse on which the murderer escaped belonged to John Hamilton, Abbot of Arbroath, one of the duke’s sons. He rode immediately to Hamilton, where he was “received with great applause.”
It was the happiness of the regent, that, in his youth, he fell into the company of men, who cultivated his vigorous understanding, gave a proper direction to his activity, and instilled into his mind the principles of religion and virtue. His early adoption of the reformed sentiments, the steadiness with which he adhered to them, the uniform correctness of his morals, his integrity, sagacity, and enterprising but cool courage, soon placed him in the first rank among those who embarked in the struggle for the reformation of religion, and the maintenance of national liberties, and secured to him their cordial and unbounded confidence. The honors which Mary conferred on him were not too great for the services which he performed, and had she continued to act by his advice, those measures would have been avoided which brought on her ruin. He was repeatedly placed in a situation which would have tempted the ambition of persons possessed of far inferior abilities, yet he showed no disposition to grasp at the supreme authority. When he accepted the regency, it was in compliance with the decided and uncorrupted choice of the acting majority in the kingdom, pointing him out as the person for occupying that high station; and his conduct, in one of the most delicate and embarrassing situations in which a governor was ever placed, showed that his countrymen were not mistaken in their choice. He united, in no ordinary degree, those qualities, which are rarely combined in the same individual, and which form the character of an accomplished prince. Excelling equally in the arts of war and peace, he reduced the country to obedience by his military skill and valor, and preserved it in state of tranquility and order by the wise and impartial administration of justice. Successful in all his warlike enterprises, he never once tarnished the laurels of victory by cruelty to the vanquished. He knew how to maintain the authority of the laws, and to bridle the licentious, by salutary severity, and at the same time to temper the rigor of justice by the interposition of mercy. He used to sit personally in the courts of judicature, and exerted himself to obtain for all the subjects an easy and expeditious decision of litigated causes. His hospitality, his unostentatious charity, his uncommon liberality to the learned, and the anxiety he showed to confer his favors in the manner least calculated to hurt their feelings, have been celebrated by one who had the best opportunities of becoming acquainted with these amiable traits of his character. Nor has the breath of calumny, which has attempted in many ways to blast his reputation, ever insinuated that he oppressed or burdened the public, during his regency, in order to enrich himself or his family. Add to all these qualities, his exemplary piety, the only source of genuine and exalted virtue. His family was so regulated as to resemble a church rather than a court. Not a profane or lewd word was to be heard from any of his domestics. A chapter of the Bible was always read at table after dinner and supper; and it was his custom on such occasions, to require his chaplain, or some learned man present, to give his opinion upon the passage, for his own instruction and that of his family. “A man truly good,” says Archbishop Spotswood, “and worthy to be ranked among the best governors that this kingdom hath enjoyed, and, therefore, to this day honored with the title of The Good Regent.”
This may perhaps be deemed by some readers an improper digression. But though it had been less connected with the subject of this work than it is, and though the familiarity and co-operation between the regent and the Reformer had been less intimate and cordial than they really were, I could not have denied myself the satisfaction of paying a small tribute to the memory of one of the greatest men of his age, who has been traduced and vilified in a most unjustifiable manner, and whose character has been drawn with unfavorable, and, in my opinion, with unfair colors, by the most moderate and impartial of our historians. All that I have attempted is to sketch the more prominent features of his character. That he was faultless, I am far from wishing to insinuate, but the principal charges which have been brought against him, I consider as either irrelevant, or unproved, or greatly exaggerated. That his exaltation to the highest dignity in the state which a subject could enjoy, produced no unfavorable change on his temper and behavior, is what none can be prepared to affirm; but I have not seen the contrary established. The confidence which he reposed in his friends was great, and he was inclined to pay much deference to their advice; but that he became the dupe of worthless favorites, and fell by listening to their flattery, and refusing to hearken to wholesome advice, and not by the treachery of his friends and the malice of his enemies, are assertions which have been repeated upon the authority of a single witness, unsupported by facts, and capable of being disproved.
The regent died on the evening of Saturday, the twenty-third of January, 1570, and the intelligence of his murder was conveyed early next morning to Edinburgh. It is impossible to describe the anguish which the Reformer felt on this occasion. The loss of a noble and endeared friend was the least evil which he had deplore. Of all the Scottish nobility, he placed the greatest confidence in Murray’s attachment to religion, and his conduct after his elevation to the regency had served to heighten the good opinion which he formerly entertained of him. He looked upon his death as the greatest calamity which could befall the nation, and as a forerunner of many evils. When the shock produced by the melancholy tidings had subsided, the first thought that rushed into his mind was that he had himself been the instrument of obtaining, from his clemency, a pardon to the man who had become his murderer, a thought which naturally produced a very different impression on him from what it did on the mind of the dying regent.
“Upon the 22 of Maii, the Sherife of Linlithgow, the Laird of Innerweek, James Hamilton of Bothwelhaugh, and six others, were put to an assyse, their hands bound; and pardoned at the request of Mr. Knox, whereof he sore repented; for Bothwelhaugh killed the regent shortlie after.”
In his sermon that day, he introduced the melancholy subject, and, after saying that God in his great mercy raised up pious rulers and took them away in his displeasure, on account the sins of a nation, he thus poured out the sorrows of his heart: “O Lord, in what misery and confusion found he this realm! To what rest and quietness now by his labors, suddenly he brought the same, all estates, but especially the poor commons, can witness. Thy image, O Lord, did so clearly shine in that personage, that the devil, and the people to whom he is prince, could not abide it; and so to punish our sins and our ingratitude (who did not rightly esteem so precious a gift), thou hast permitted him to fall, to our great grief, in the hands of cruel and traitorous murderers. He is at rest, O Lord; we are left in extreme misery.”
Only a few days before this, and after the plan of the murder was fully concerted, Gavin Hamilton, Abbot of Kilwinning, applied to Knox to intercede with the regent in behalf of some of his kinsmen, who were confined for practicing against the government. He signified his readiness to do all in his power for the relief of any of that family who were willing to own the authority of the king, but entreated the abbot not to abuse him by employing his services, if his relations intended to do any mischief to the regent, for “I protest,” said he, “before God, who is the only witness now betwixt us, that if there be any thing attempted, by any of that surname, against the person of that man, in that case I discharge myself to you and them for ever.” After the assassination, the abbot sent to desire another interview, but Knox refused to see him and desired the messenger to say, “I have not now the regent to make suit unto for the Hamiltons.”
At this time there was handed about a fabricated account of a pretended conference held by the late regent with Lord Lindsay, Wishart of Pittarrow, the tutor of Pitcur, James Macgill, and Knox, in which they were represented as advising him to set aside the young king and place the crown on his own head. To give it the greater air of credibility, the modes of expression peculiar to each of the persons were carefully imitated in the speeches put into their mouths. The evident design of circulating it at this time was to lessen the odium of the murder and the veneration of the people for the memory of Murray, but it was universally regarded as an impudent and gross forgery. The person who fabricated it was Thomas Maitland, a young man of talents, but corrupted by his brother the secretary, who had previously engaged himself to the queen’s party, and was suspected of having had a deep hand in the plot for assassinating the regent.
On the day on which the weekly conference was held in Edinburgh, the same person slipped into the pulpit a schedule containing words to this effect: “Take up now the man whom you accounted another God, and consider the end to which his ambition hath brought him.” It was Knox’s turn to preach that day. On entering the pulpit he took up the paper, supposing it to be a note requesting the prayers of the congregation for a sick person, and having read it, laid it aside without any apparent emotion. But towards the conclusion of his sermon, after deploring the loss which the Church and commonwealth had recently sustained, and declaring the account of the conference which had been circulated, to be false and calumnious, he said that there were persons who rejoiced at the treasonable murder, scrupled not to make it the subject of their merriment; and particularly, there was one present who had thrown into the pulpit a paper exulting over an event which was the cause of grief to all good men: “That wicked man, whosoever he be, shall not go unpunished, and shall die where there shall be none to lament him.” Maitland, after he went home, said to his sister, that the preacher was raving when he spake in such a manner of a person who was unknown to him; but she, suspecting her brother had written the line, reproved him, saying with tears that none of that man’s denunciations were wont to prove idle. Spotswood (who had his information personally from the mouth of that lady) says that Maitland died in Italy, “having no known person to attend him.”
On Tuesday, the fourteenth of February, the regent’s corpse was brought from the palace of Holyroodhouse and interred in the south aisle of the collegiate Church of St. Giles. Before the funeral, Knox preached a sermon on these words: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” Three thousand persons dissolved in tears before him, while he described the virtues of the regent and bewailed his loss. Buchanan paid a tribute to the memory of his deceased patron by writing the inscription placed on his monument, with that expressive simplicity and brevity which are dictated by genuine grief. A convention of the nobility was held after the funeral, at which it resolved to avenge his death, but different opinions were entertained as to the mode of doing this, and the commons complained loudly of the remissness with which the resolution was prosecuted. The General Assembly, at their first meeting, testified their detestation of the crime by ordering the assassin to be publicly excommunicated in all the chief towns of the kingdom, and by appointing the same process to be used against all who afterwards be convicted of accession to the murder.
During the sitting of the convention, Knox received a number of letters from his acquaintances in England, expressive of their high regard for the character of the regent and their sorrow at so grievous a loss. One of these was from Christopher Goodman, and another from John Willock, who either had not complied with the invitation of the General Assembly, or had again returned to England. The other letters were from Englishmen who had no immediate connection with Scotland. Dr. Laurence Humphrey urged Knox to write a memoir of the deceased. Had he done this, his intimate acquaintance with the regent would, no doubt, have enabled him to communicate many particulars of which we must now be content to remain ignorant, but though he had been disposed to undertake this task, the state of his health would have prevented its execution.
The grief which he indulged on account of this mournful event, and the confusions which followed it, preyed upon his spirits and injured his health. In the month of October, he had a stroke of apoplexy, which affected his speech to a considerable degree. On this occasion his enemies exulted and circulated the most exaggerated tales respecting his disorder. The report ran through Scotland and England that John Knox would never preach or speak more, that his face was turned into his neck, that he was become the most deformed creature ever seen, that he was actually dead—a most unequivocal proof of the high consideration in which he was held, which our Reformer received in common with other great men of his age.
In 1556, Calvin was suddenly seized in the pulpit with a fever, which confined him to his bed for a considerable time, and from which it was not thought he would recover. On hearing this, the Popish clergy of Noyon, his native city, met and rather prematurely gave public thanks to God for his death.
Luther, having received in 1545 a copy of an account of his own death, printed at Naples, had it reprinted with this note: “I, Martin Luther, attest that I received this frantic fable on this 21st of March, and am delighted beyond measure to understand that the devil and his spawn the pope and papists, hate me so heartily.”
From October 1570, when he was struck with apoplexy, to His death in November 1572
Those who flattered themselves that the reformer’s disorder was mortal were disappointed, for he was restored to the use of his speech, and was able, in the course of a few days, to resume preaching, at least on Sabbath days. He never recovered, however, from the debility which was produced by the apoplectic stroke.
The confusions which he had augured from the death of the good regent soon broke out, and again spread the flames of civil discord through the nation. The Earl of Lennox, who was the natural guardian of his grandson, was advanced to the regency; but he was deficient in the talents which were requisite for so difficult a station, and the knowledge of his weakness emboldened and increased the party which was attached to the queen. The Hamiltons openly raised her standard and were strengthened by the influence and abilities of Maitland. William Kircaldy of Grange, whom Murray had made governor of the castle of Edinburgh, after concealing his defection for some time under the flag of neutrality, declared himself on the same side, and became a principal agent in attempting to overturn that government which he had been so zealous in erecting. Maitland’s tergiversation surprised nobody, but the defection of Kircaldy was deeply felt by those with whom he had been so long associated. It proved a source of the keenest distress to Knox. The acquaintance which they had formed in the castle of St. Andrews grew into intimacy during their confinement in the French galleys, and Knox could never forget the services which Kircaldy performed during the subsequent struggle for reformation, and continued to the last to cherish the hope that he was at heart a friend to religion. Under the influence of these feelings, he spared no pains in endeavoring to prevent him from renouncing his fidelity to the king, and afterwards to reclaim him from his apostasy. But in both attempts he was unsuccessful.
In the end of the year 1570, he was personally involved in a disagreeable quarrel with Kircaldy. One of the soldiers belonging to the castle having been imprisoned by the magistrates on a charge of murder, the governor sent a party from the garrison, who broke open the tolbooth and carried off the prisoner. In sermon on the following Sabbath, Knox condemned this riot and violation of the house of justice. Had it been done by the authority of a bloodthirsty man, or one who had no fear of God, he would not, he said, have been so much moved at it; but he was affected to think that one of whom all good men had formed so great expectations, should have fallen so far as to act such a part—one too, who, when formerly in prison, had refused to purchase his own liberty by the shedding of blood. An erroneous and exaggerated report of this censure being conveyed to the castle, the governor, in a great rage, made his complaint, first to Knox’s colleague, and afterwards formally to the kirk-session, that he had been calumniated as a murderer, and required that his character should be vindicated as publicly had been traduced. Knox, understanding that his words had been misrepresented, embraced the first opportunity of explaining and vindicating them from the pulpit. On a subsequent day, Kircaldy, who had absented himself from church nearly a whole year, came down to St. Giles’s accompanied with a number of the persons who had been active in the murder and riot. Regarding this as an attempt to overawe the authorities and set public opinion at defiance, the reformer dwelt particularly in his discourse upon the sinfulness of forgetting benefits received from God, and warned his hearers against confiding in the divine mercy while they were knowingly transgressing any of the commandments, or proudly defending their transgression.
Kircaldy was much incensed at this admonition, which he considered as leveled at him, and made use of very threatening language in speaking of the preacher. The report spread that the governor of the castle was become a sworn enemy to Knox and intended to kill him. Upon this, several noblemen and gentlemen of Kyle and Cunningham sent a letter to Kircaldy, in which, after reminding him of his former appearances for religion and mentioning the reports which had reached their ears, they warned him against doing anything to the hurt of that man, whom “God had made the first planter and chief waterer of his church among them,” and protested that “his death and life were as dear to them as their own.”
Knox was not to be deterred from doing what he considered to be his duty. He persisted in warning his hearers to avoid all participation with those who prevented the punishment of atrocious crimes by supporting the pretensions of the queen, and who exposed the reformed religion to the utmost hazard by opposing the king’s authority. When the General Assembly met in March 1571, anonymous libels were thrown into the house where they were sitting, and placards affixed to the church doors, accusing him of seditious railing against their sovereign the queen, refusing to pray for her welfare and conversion, representing her as a reprobate whose repentance was hopeless, and uttering imprecations against her. One of the placards concluded with a threat that, if the Assembly did not restrain him by their authority from using such language, the complainers would themselves apply a remedy to the evil “with greater unquietness.” The Assembly having, by public intimation, required the complainers to come forward and substantiate their charges, another anonymous writing appeared, promising that accusers should not be wanting against next Assembly, if the preacher continued his offensive speeches, and was “then law-byding, and not fugitive, according to his accustomed manner.”
Several of his friends dealt with him to pass over these unauthenticated libels in silence, but he refused to comply with this advice considering that the credit of his ministry was implicated. Accordingly, he produced them in the pulpit, and returned a particular answer to the accusations which they contained. That he had charged the late queen with the crimes of which she had been notoriously guilty, he granted; that he had railed against her, he denied; nor would they be able to substantiate this charge against him, without at the same time proving Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other inspired writers, to have been railers. “From them he had learned plainly and boldly to call wickedness by its own terms—a fig, a fig, and a spade, a spade.” He never called the queen reprobate nor said that her repentance was impossible, but he had affirmed that pride and repentance could not remain long together in one heart. He had prayed that God, for the comfort of his Church, would oppose his power to her pride, and confound her and her assistants in their impiety; this prayer, let them call it imprecation or execration as they pleased, had stricken, and would yet strike, whoever supported her. To the charge of not praying for the queen, he answered, “I am not bound to pray for her in this place, for sovereign to me she is not; and I let them understand I am not a man of law that has my tongue to sell for silver or favour of the world.”” What title she now had, or ever had to the government, he would not dispute; the estates had deprived her of it, and it belonged to them to answer for this; as for him, he had hitherto lived in obedience to all lawful authority within the kingdom. To the threatening against his life, and the insinuation that he might not be “law-byding, but fugitive” against next Assembly, he replied that his life was in the custody of Him who had hitherto preserved him from many dangers, that he had reached an age at which he was not apt to flee far, nor could any yet accuse him of having left the people committed to his charge, except at their own command.
After these answers, his enemies fled, as their last resort, to an attack upon his Blast of the Trumpet, and accused him of inconsistency in writing against female government, and yet praying for Queen Elizabeth, and seeking her support against his native country. This accusation he also met in the pulpit, and refuted with great spirit. After vindicating his consistency, he concluded in the following manner: “One thing in the end I may not pretermit, that is, to give him a lie in his throat that either dare or will say that ever I sought support against my native country. What I have been to my country, albeit this unthankful age will not know, yet the ages to come will be compelled to bear witness to the truth. And thus I cease, requiring of all men that has to oppose any thing against me, that he will do it so plainly as I make myself and all my doings manifest to the world; for to me it seems a thing most unreasonable, that in my decrepit age, I shall be compelled to fight against shadows, and howlets that dare not abide the light.”
The conduct of our reformer at this period affords a striking display of the unextinguishable ardor of his mind. Previous to the breaking out of the late disturbances, he had given up attendance on church courts. He never went abroad except on Sabbath-day, to preach in the forenoon. He was so debilitated as to be unable to go to the pulpit without assistance. He had weaned his heart from the world and expressed his resolution to take no more part in public affairs. In answer to a letter of his esteemed friend, Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, who had informed him of an intended attempt on the castle of St. Andrews by Archbishop Hamilton, and requested his good offices for certain preachers, we find him, on the thirty-first of March, 1570, writing as follows: “How such troublers may be stayed in their enterprises, I commit to God, to whose counsels I commit you in that and all other causes worldly, for I have taken my good-night of it; and therefore bear with me, good sir, albeit I write not to the superintendent of Fife in the action that ye desire.” But whenever he saw the church and commonwealth seriously in danger, he forgot his infirmities and his resolutions, and entered into the cause with all the keenness of his more vigorous days. Whether the public proceedings of the nation or his own conduct were arraigned, whether the attacks upon them were open or clandestine, he stood prepared to repel them, and convinced the adversaries that they could not accomplish their designs without opposition, as long as he was able to move or speak.
His situation became very critical in April 1571, when Kircaldy received the Hamiltons, with their forces, into the castle. Their inveteracy against him was so great that his friends were obliged to watch his house during the night. They proposed forming a guard for the protection of his person when he went abroad, but the governor of the castle forbade this, as implying a suspicion of his own intentions, and offered to send Melvil, one of his officers, to conduct him to and from the church. “He wold gif the woulf the wedder to keip,” says Bannatyne. Induced by the importunity of the citizens, Kircaldy applied to the duke and his party for a protection to Knox; but they refused to pledge their word for his safety, because there “were many rascals and others among them who loved him not, that might do him harm without their knowledge.” Intimations were often given him of threatenings against his life, and one evening a musket-ball was fired in at his window, and lodged in the roof of the apartment in which he was sitting. It happened that he sat at the time in a different part of the room from that which he had been accustomed to occupy, otherwise the ball, from the direction it took, must have struck him. Alarmed by this occurrence, a deputation of citizens, accompanied by his colleague, waited upon him and renewed a request which they had formerly made, that he would remove from Edinburgh to a place where his life would be in greater safety, until the queen’s party should evacuate the town. But he refused to yield to them, apprehending that his enemies wished to intimidate him into flight, that they might carry on their designs more quietly, and then accuse him of cowardice. Being unable to persuade him by any other means, they had recourse at last to an argument which prevailed. They told him that if he was attacked, they were determined to risk their lives in his defense, and if blood was shed in the quarrel, which was highly probable, they would leave it on his head. Upon this he consented to remove from the city “sore against his will.”
He left Edinburgh on the fifth of May, 1571, and crossing the Frith at Leith, traveled by short stages to St. Andrews, which he had chosen as the place of his retreat. His pulpit was filled by Alexander Gordon, Bishop of Galloway, who preached and prayed in a manner more acceptable to the queen’s party than his predecessor, but little to the satisfaction of the people, who despised him on account of his weakness, and disliked him for supplanting their favorite pastor. A number of the most respectable inhabitants were driven from the capital by violence, while others were induced to quit it and retire to Leith, that they might not be understood as even practically submitting to the queen’s authority. The Church of Edinburgh was for a time dissolved. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper was suspended. And, whereas formerly scarce a day passed without public exercise of religion, there was now, during a whole week, “neither preaching nor prayer; neither was there any sound of bell heard in all the town, except the ringing of the cannon.”
The kingdom was now subjected to all the miseries of civil war and intestine faction. In almost every part of the country there were adherents to the king and to the queen, who exasperated each other by reciprocal reproaches and injuries. The regent fortified Leith, while the queen’s party kept possession of the castle and town of Edinburgh. As the two armies lay at a small distance from one another, and neither of them was sufficiently strong for undertaking to dispossess the other, they were daily engaged in petty skirmishes, and several acts of disgraceful retaliation, which rarely happen in the open field, were committed on both sides. The evidence which the queen’s friends gave of their personal antipathy to the reformer, clearly showed that his life would have been in imminent danger if he had remained among them. An inhabitant of Leith was assaulted and his body mutilated, because he was of the same name with him. A servant of John Craig, being met one day by a reconnoitering party, and asked who was his master, answered, in his trepidation, Mr. Knox, upon which he was seized, and, although he immediately corrected his mistake, they desired him to “hold at his first master,” and dragged him to prison. Having fortified St. Giles’s steeple to overawe the inhabitants, the soldiers baptized one of the cannons by the name of Knox, which they were so fond of firing, that it burst, killed two of the party and wounded others. They circulated the most ridiculous tales respecting his conduct at St. Andrews. John Law, the letter-carrier of that city, being in the castle of Edinburgh, “the ladie Home and utheris wald neidis thraip in his face, that” John Knox “was banist the said toune, becaus that in the yarde he had reasit sum sanctis, amongis whome thair came up the devill with hornis, which when his servant Richard sawe, [he] ran woode, and so died.”
Although he was now free from personal danger, Knox did not find St. Andrews that peaceful retreat which he had expected. The friends of Kircaldy and of Sir James Balfour resided in the neighborhood, and the Hamiltons had their relations and partisans both in the university and among the ministry. These were thorns in the reformer’s side, and made his situation very uneasy, as long as he resided among them. Having left Edinburgh because he could not be permitted to disburden his conscience by testifying against the designs of persons whom he regarded as conspirators against the legal government of the country, and favorers of a faction who intended nothing less than the overthrow of the reformed religion, it was not to be expected that he would preserve silence on this subject at St. Andrews. Accordingly, in the discourses which he preached on the eleventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy, he frequently took occasion to advert to recent transactions, and to inveigh against the murder of the late king, and of the regent. This was very grating to the ears of the opposite faction, particularly to Robert and Archibald Hamilton, the former one of the ministers of the city, and the latter a professor in one of the colleges. Irritated by the censures which Knox pronounceded against his kinsmen, Robert Hamilton attempted to injure his reputation by circulating in private that it did not become him to exclaim so loudly against murderers, for he had seen his subscription, along with that of the Earl of Murray, to a bond for assassinating Darnley at Perth. When this came to the reformer’s ears, he immediately wrote a letter to Hamilton, desiring him to say whether he was the author of the slanderous report. Not receiving a satisfactory answer, he communicated the matter to Douglas, rector of the university, and Rutherford, provost of St. Salvator’s College, requesting them to converse with their colleague on the subject and to inform him that if he did not give satisfaction for the slander which he had propagated, a complaint would be lodged against him before the Church. Upon this he came to Knox’s room, and denied that he had ever given any ground for such a scandalous surmise.
Archibald Hamilton being complained of for withdrawing from Knox’s sermons, and for accusing him of intolerable railing, endeavored to bring the matter under the cognizance of the masters of the university, among whom he possessed considerable influence. Knox did not scruple to give an account of his conduct before the professors for their satisfaction, but he judged it necessary to enter a protest that his appearance before them should not invalidate the liberty of the pulpit, nor the authority of the regular church courts, to which, and not to any university, the judgment of religious doctrine belonged. This incident accounts for the zeal with which he expresses himself on this subject in one of his letters to the General Assembly, in which he exhorts them, above all things, to preserve the Church from the bondage of the universities, and not to exempt them from ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or allow them to become judges of the doctrine taught from the pulpit.
The military operations during the civil war were chiefly distinguished by two enterprises which claim our notice from the influence which they had upon the affairs of the Church. The one was the taking of Dunbarton Castle, which was surprised, on the second of April, 1571, by a small party of the regent’s forces, led by Captain Crawford of Jordanhill. Archbishop Hamilton, having fallen into the hands of the captors, was soon after condemned and ended his life on the gibbet. The execution of prisoners, although chargeable with crimes which merit death, is ordinarily avoided in civil contests, because it produces reprisals from the opposite party, but in every other respect the fate of Hamilton is not a subject of regret or of censure. Of all the queen’s adherents, his motives for supporting her cause appear to have been the most unworthy, and his talents and rank in the Church ought not to be pleaded in extenuation of the vices which stained his private character or the crimes of which he had been guilty. The death of Hamilton gave occasion to a change in the ecclesiastical government, of which I speak immediately.
An enterprise equally bold with Crawford’s but less successful was planned by Kircaldy. While the Regent Lennox was holding a parliament at Stirling, which was numerously attended, a party of soldiers suddenly entered the town early on the morning of September 3, 1571, seized the regent and the nobility who were along with him, and carried them away prisoners. The alarm having been given, the Earl of Mar sallied from the castle, and with the assistance of the townsmen, dispersed the assailants and rescued the noblemen. But this was not accomplished without the loss of the regent, who was slain by the orders of Lord Claud Hamilton, in revenge for the death of the Archbishop of St. Andrews. Lennox was succeeded in the regency by the Earl of Mar, a noblemen of great moderation, who, during the short time that he held that office, exerted himself to restore peace to the kingdom, and brought the negotiations for this purpose very near to a successful termination.
During these transactions the courtiers were devising a scheme for securing to themselves the principal part of the ecclesiastical revenues, which led to an alteration of the policy of the Church. We have repeatedly had occasion to notice the aversion of the nobility to the Book of Discipline, and the principal source from which the aversion sprung. While the Earl of Murray administered the government, he prevented any encroachments upon the rights of the Church; but the succeeding regents mere either less friendly to them, or less able to check the avarice of the more powerful nobles. Several of the richest benefices having become vacant by the death or by the forfeiture of the Popish incumbents who had been permitted to retain them, it was necessary to determine in what manner they should be disposed of. The Church had uniformly required that their revenues should be divided and applied to the support of the religious and literary establishments, but with this demand the courtiers were as much indisposed to comply as ever. At the same time, the secularization of them was deemed too bold a step; nor could laymen, with any shadow of consistency, or by a valid title, hold benefices which the law declared to be ecclesiastical. The expedient resolved on was that the bishoprics and other rich livings should be presented to certain ministers, who, previous to their admission, should make over the principal part of the revenues to such noblemen as had obtained the patronage of them from the court. This plan, which was concerted under the regency of Lennox, was carried into execution during that of Mar, chiefly by the influence of the Earl of Morton.
Morton, having obtained from the court a gift of the archbishopric of St. Andrews, vacant by the execution of Hamilton, entered into a private agreement respecting its revenues with John Douglas, rector of the university, whom he presented to that see. At the meeting of parliament in Stirling, August 1571, the commissioners of the General Assembly protested against this transaction; but through the interest of Morton, Douglas, though not yet elected, was admitted to a seat in parliament, and the new scheme for seizing on the ecclesiastical livings was confirmed, notwithstanding the warm remonstrances of the ministers of the Church, and the strenuous opposition of the more zealous and disinterested barons. Bishoprics and other great benefices were now openly conferred on noblemen, on persons totally unqualified for the ministry, and even on minors. Pluralities were multiplied, the ecclesiastical courts were hindered in the exercise of their jurisdiction, and the collectors of the Church were prohibited from gathering the thirds until some new regulation was adopted for supplying the necessities of the court.
These proceedings having created great dissatisfaction through the nation, the regent and council called an extraordinary assembly of superintendents and other ministers to meet at Leith in January 1572, to consult about an order which might prove more acceptable. Through the influence of the court, this convention consented that the titles of archbishop and other ecclesiastical dignitaries should be retained, that the bounds of the ancient dioceses should not be altered during the king’s minority, and that qualified persons from among the ministers should be advanced to these dignities. They, however, allotted no greater power to archbishops and bishops than to superintendents, with whom they were to be equally subject to the Assemblies of the Church. These regulations were submitted to the ensuing General Assembly at St. Andrews, but as that meeting was thinly attended, it came to no determination among them. The Assembly held at Perth, in August 1572, resumed the subject, and came to the following resolution: the regulations contained certain titles, such as archbishop, dean, archdean, chancellor, and chapter, which savored of Popery, and were scandalous and offensive to their ears; and that whole Assembly, including the commissioners which had met at Leith, unanimously protested that they did not approve of these titles, that they submitted to the regulations merely as an interim arrangement, and that they would exert themselves to obtain a more perfect order from the regent and council. Such was the origin and nature of that species of Episcopacy which was introduced into the Reformed Church of Scotland the minority of James VI. It was disapproved of by ministers of the Church, and on the part of the courtiers and nobility, it does not appear to have proceeded from predilection to hierarchical government, but from the desire which they felt to obtain possession of the revenues of the Church. This was emphatically expressed by the name of tulchan bishops, which was commonly applied to those who were at that time admitted to the office.
Knox did not fail from the beginning to oppose these encroachments on the rights and property of the Church. Being unable to attend the General Assembly held at Stirling in August 1571, he addressed a letter to it, warning the members of the new contest which he foresaw they would have to maintain, and animating them to fidelity and courage. “And now, brethren,” says he, “because the daily decay of natural strength threateneth my certain and sudden departing from the misery of this life, of love and conscience I exhort you, yea, in the fear of God, I charge and command you that ye take heed unto yourselves and to the flock over which God hath placed you pastors. Unfaithful and traitorous to the flock shall ye be before the Lord Jesus Christ, if, with your consent directly, ye suffer unworthy men to be thrust into the ministry of the Church under whatever pretence it shall be. Remember and judge before whom we must make our account, and resist that tyranny as ye would avoid hell-fire. This battle will be hard, but in the second point it will be harder; that is, that with the like uprightness and strength in God, ye gainstand the merciless devourers of the patrimony of the Church. If men will spoil, let them do it to their own peril and condemnation, but communicate ye not with their sins, of whatsoever estate they be, by consent nor by silence; but with public proclamation make this known unto the world, that ye are innocent of robbery, whereof ye will seek redress of God and man. God give you wisdom and stout courage in so just a cause, and me an happy end.” In a letter which he afterwards wrote to Wishart of Pittarrow, he also expresses himself in a strain of honest but keen indignation at the avarice of the nobility.
It has been insinuated that Knox gave his approbation to the resolutions of the convention at Leith to restore the episcopal office, and the articles sent by him to the General Assembly in August 1572 have been appealed to as a proof of this. But all that can be fairly deduced from these articles is that he desired the conditions and limitations agreed upon by that convention to be strictly observed in the election of bishops, in opposition to the granting of bishoprics to laymen, and to the simoniacal pactions which the ministers made with the nobles on receiving presentations. Provided one of the propositions made by him to the Assembly had been enforced, and the bishops had been bound to give an account of the whole of their rents, and either to support ministers in the particular places from which they derived these, or else to pay into the funds of the Church the sums requisite for this purpose, it is evident that the mercenary views both of patrons and presentees would have been defeated, and the Church would have gained her object, the use of the episcopal revenues. The prospect of this induced some honest ministers to agree to the proposed regulations at the convention held in Leith. But it required a greater portion of disinterested firmness than falls to most men, to act upon this principle, and the nobles were able to find, even at that period, a sufficient number of pliant, needy, or covetous ministers to be partners or the dupes of their avarice.
Though our reformer was of opinion that, in certain circumstances of the Church, a power might be delegated to some ministers to inspect the congregations within a particular district, and accordingly recommended the appointment of superintendents at the first establishment of the Reformation in Scotland, yet he did not allow of any class of office-bearers in the Church, under whatever name, who were superior either in office or in order to ministers or presbyters. His sentiments were not more favorable to diocesan Episcopacy in his latter, an they had been in his earlier days. Writing to a correspondent in England in the year 1568, he says, “I would most gladly pass through the course that God hath appointed to my labors, giving thanks to his holy name, for that it hath pleased his mercy to make me not a lord-bishop, but a painful preacher his blessed evangel.” In his correspondence with Beza, he had informed him of the government established in the Scottish Church; and at this very time he received a letter from that reformer, congratulating him that he had banished the order of bishops and admonishing him and his colleagues to beware of suffering it to re-enter under the deceitful pretext of preserving unity. He had an opportunity of publicly declaring his sentiments on this subject at the installation of Douglas as Archbishop of St. Andrews. Having preached as usual on Sabbath, February 13, 1572, the Earl of Morton, who was present, desired him to inaugurate Douglas, but he positively refused and pronounced an anathema against both the donor and the receiver of the bishopric. The Provost of St. Salvator’s College, having said that Knox’s conduct proceeded from disappointment because the bishopric had not been conferred on himself, he, on the following Sabbath, repelled this invidious charge. He had refused, he said, a greater bishopric in that of St. Andrews, which he might have had by the favor of greater men than Douglas had his; what he had spoken was for the exoneration of his conscience, that the Church of Scotland might not be subject to that order, especially after a very different one had been settled in the Bootk of Discipline, subscribed by the nobility and ratified by parliament. He lamented also that a burden should have been laid upon an old man, which twenty men of the greatest ability could not sustain. In the General Assembly held at St. Andrews in the following month, he not only entered a protest against the election of Douglas, but also “opponed himself directly to the making of bishops.”
While he was engaged in these contests, his bodily strength was every day sensibly decaying. Yet he continued to preach, although unable to walk to the pulpit without assistance, and, when warmed with his subject, he forgot his weakness, and electrified the audience with his eloquence. James Melville, afterwards minister of Anstruther, was then a student at the College, and one of his constant hearers. The account which he has given of his appearance is exceedingly striking; and, as any translation would enfeeble it, I shall give it in his own words: “Of all the benefits that I had that year , was the coming of that maist notable profet and apostle of our nation, Mr. Johne Knox, to St. Andrews, who, be the faction of the queen occupeing the castell and town of Edinburgh, was compellit to remove therefra, with a number of the best, and chusit to come to St. Andrews. I heard him teache there the prophecies of Daniel, that simmer and the wintar following. I had my pen and my little buike, and tuke away sic things as I could comprehend. In the opening up of his text, he was moderat the space of an half houre; but when he entered to application, he made me so to grew [thrill] and tremble, that I could not hald a pen to wryt. He was very weik. I saw him, every day of his doctrine, go hulie and fear [slowly and warily], with a furring of marticks about his neck, a staffe in the ane hand, and gude, godlie Richart Ballenden, his servand, halden up the uther oxter [armpit], from the abbey to the parish kirk, and, by the said Richart, and another servand, lifted up to the pulpit whar he behovit to lean at his first entrie; bot, ere he haid done with his sermone, he was sa active and vigorous, that he was lyk to ding the pulpit in blads [beat the pulpit in pieces], and flie out of it.”
The persons with whom the reformer was most familiar at St. Andrews, were the Professors of St. Leonard’s College, who often visited him at his lodging in the abbey. This college was distinguished by its warm attachment to the doctrines of the Reformation, which it had embraced at a very early period, while the two other colleges were disaffected to the authority of the king, and several of their teachers suspected of leaning to Popery. The reformer was accustomed to amuse himself by walking in St. Leonard’s Yard, and to look with peculiar complacency on the students, whom he regarded as the rising hope of the Church. He would sometimes call them to him, and bless them, and exhort them to be diligent in their studies, to attend to the instructions of their teachers, and imitate the good example which they set before them, to acquaint themselves with God, and with the great work which he had lately performed in their native country, and to cleave to the good cause. These familiar advices, from a person so venerable, made a deep impression on the minds of the young men. He even condescended to be present at a college exercise performed by them at the marriage of one of their regents, in which the siege and taking of Edinburgh Castle was dramatically represented.
During his stay at St. Andrews, he published a vindication of the reformed religion, in answer to a letter written by Tyrie, the Scottish Jesuit. The argumentative part of the work was finished by him in 1568, but he sent it abroad at this time, with admonitions, as a farewell address to the world, and a dying testimony to the truth which he had long taught and defended. Along with it he published one of the religious letters which he had formerly written to his mother-in-law, Mrs. Bowes; and, in an advertisement prefixed to this, he informs us that she had lately departed this life, and that he could not allow the opportunity to slip of acquainting the public, by means of this letter, with the intimate Christian friendship which had so long subsisted between them.
The ardent desire which he felt to be released by death from the troubles of the present life, appears in all that he wrote about this time. “Weary of the world,” and “thirsting to depart,” are expressions frequently used by him. The dedication of the above-mentioned work is thus inscribed: “John Knox, the servant of Jesus Christ, now wearie of the world, and daylie luiking for the resolution of this my earthly tabernakle, to the faithful that God of his mercie shall appoint to fight after me.” In the conclusion of it, he says, “Call for me, deir brethren, that God, in his mercy, will pleis to put end to my long and panefull battel. For now being unable to fight, as God sumtymes gave strength, I thirst an end befoir I be more troublesum to the faithfull. And yet, Lord, let my desyre be moderate be thy Holy Spirit.” In a prayer subjoined to the dedication, are these words: “To thee, O Lord, I commend my spirit. For I thirst to be resolved from this body of sin, and am assured that I shall rise agane in glorie; howsoever it be that the wicked for a tyme sall trode me and others, thy servandes under their feit. Be merciful, O Lord, unto the kirk within this realme; continew with it the light of thy evangell; augment the number of true preicheris. And let thy mercifull providence luke upon my desolate bedfellow, the fruit of hir bosome, and my two deir children, Nathanael and Eleazar. Now, Lord, put end to my miserie.” The advertisement “to the faithful reader,” dated at St. Andrews, 12th July, 1571, concludes in the following manner: “I hartly salute and take my good night of all the faithful of both realms, earnestly desyring the assistance of their prayers, that, without any notable slander to the evangel of Jesus Christ, I may end my battel; for, as the worlde is wearie of me, so am I of it.”
The General Assembly being appointed to meet at Perth on sixth of August, he took his leave of them in a letter, along with which he transmitted certain articles and questions which he recommended to their consideration. The Assembly returned him an answer, declaring their approbation of his propositions and their earnest desires for his preservation and comfort. The piece of public service which he performed at their request, was to examine and approve of a sermon which had been lately preached by David Ferguson, minister of Dunfermline. His subscription to this sermon, like everything which proceeded from his mouth or pen about this time, is uncommonly striking: “John Knox, with my dead hand, but glaid heart, praising God, of his mercy he levis such light to his kirk in this desolation.”
From the rapid decline of his health, in the spring of 1572, there was every appearance of his ending his days at St. Andrew’s, but it pleased God that he should be restored once more to his flock and allowed to die peaceably among them. In consequence of a cessation of arms, agreed to in the end of July, been the regent and the adherents of the queen, the city of Edinburgh was abandoned by the forces of the latter, and secured from the annoyance of the garrison in the castle. As soon as the banished citizens returned to their houses, they sent a deputation to St. Andrews, with a letter to Knox, expressive of their earnest desire “that once again his voice might be heard among them,” and entreating him immediately to come to Edinburgh, if his health would at all permit; for, said they, “loath we are to disease or hurt your person any ways, but far loather to want you.” After reading the letter and conversing with the commissioners, he expressed his willingness to return, but under the express condition that he should not be urged to preserve silence respecting the conduct of those who held the castle, “whose treasonable and tyrannical deeds he would cry out against, as long as he was able to speak.” He therefore desired them to acquaint their constituents with this lest they should afterwards repent of his austerity, and be apprehensive of ill-treatment on his account. The commissioners assured him that they did not mean to put a bridle in his mouth, but wished him to discharge his duty as he had been accustomed to do. He repeated this intimation, after his arrival at Edinburgh, to the principal persons of his congregation, and received the same assurance from them, before he would resume preaching.
Previous to the cessation of arms, the banished citizens (who had taken their residence chiefly in Leith) entered into a solemn league, by which they engaged, “in the fear of God the Father, of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holie Spirit, tackand to witness his holie name,” that they would, with their lives, lands, and goods, promote the gospel professed among them, maintain the authority of the king and regent, assist and concur with others against their enemies in the castle, defend one another if attacked, and submit any variances which might arise among themselves to brotherly arbitration or to the judgment of the town council.
On the seventeenth of August, to the great joy of the queen’s faction, whom he had overawed during his residence among them, the reformer left St. Andrews, along with his family. He was accompanied so far on his journey by the principal persons of his acquaintance in the town, who sorrowfully took their leave of him, in the prospect of seeing his face no more. Being obliged by his weakness to travel slowly, it was the twenty-third of the month before he reached Leith, from which, after resting a day or two, he came to Edinburgh. The inhabitants enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing him again in his own pulpit, on the first Sabbath after he arrived, but his voice was now so enfeebled that he could not be heard by the half of the congregation. Nobody was more sensible of this than himself. He therefore requested his session to provide a smaller house, in which he could be heard, if it were only by a hundred persons, for his voice, he said, was not able, even in his best time, to extend over the multitude which assembled in that large church, much less now when he was so greatly debilitated. This request was readily complied with by the session.
During his absence, a coolness had taken place between his colleague and the parish, who found fault with him for temporizing during the time that the queen’s party retained possession of the city. In consequence of this, they had mutually agreed to separate. After preaching two years in Montrose, Craig removed to Aberdeen, where he acted as visitor of the churches in Buchan and Mar, and was afterwards chosen minister to the royal household, a situation which he held until his death in 1600, at the advanced age of eighty-eight. Being deprived of both their pastors, and having no prospect that Knox, although he should return, would be capable of performing the public service among them, the kirk-session of Edinburgh had instructed their delegates to the General Assembly lately held at Perth, to petition that court for liberty to choose from the ministry a colleague to the reformer. The Assembly granted their request, and ordained any minister (those of Perth and Dundee excepted) who might be chosen by Knox, the superintendent of Lothian, and the church of Edinburgh, to comply with their invitation, and remove to the capital. When the commissioners came to St. Andrews, they found the superintendent along with Knox, and having consulted with them, it was agreed to nominate and recommend James Lawson, sub-principal of the university of Aberdeen, a man eminent for his piety, learning, and eloquence. Perceiving, on his return to Edinburgh that he could not long be able to endure the fatigue of preaching, and that he was already incapacitated for all other ministerial duties, Knox was extremely solicitous to have this speedily settled, lest the congregation should be left “as sheep without a shepherd,” when he was called away. The session and the superintendent having sent letters of invitation to Lawson, the reformer wrote him at the same time, urging his speedy compliance with their requests. This letter is very descriptive of the state of his mind at this interesting period:
“All worldlie strenth, yea ewin in thingis spirituall, decayes; yet sall never the work of God decay. Belovit brother, seeing that God of his mercie, far above my expectatione, has callit me ones againe to Edinburgh, and yet that I feill nature so deayed, and daylie to decay, that I luke not for a long continewance of my battell, I wald gladlie anes discharge my conscience into your bosome, and into the bosome of utheris, in whome I think the feare of God remanes. Gif I hath had the habilitie of bodie, I suld not have put you to the pane to the whilk I now requyre you, that is, anes to visite me, that we may conferre together on heavinlie thingis; for into earth there is no stability, except the kirk of Jesus Christ, ever fightand under the crosse, to whose myghtie protectione I hartlie commit you. Of Edinburgh, the vii of September, 1572. Jhone Knox.
“Haist, leist ye come too lait.”
In the beginning of September, intelligence reached Edinburgh, that the Admiral of France, the brave, the generous, the pious Coligni, was murdered in the city of Paris, by the orders of Charles IX. Immediately on the back of this, tidings arrived of that most detestable and unparalleled scene of barbarity and treachery, the general massacre of the Protestants throughout that kingdom. Post after post brought fresh accounts of the most shocking and unheard-of cruelties. Hired cut-throats and fanatical cannibals marched from city to city, paraded the streets and entered into the houses of those that were marked out for destruction. No reverence was shown to the hoary head, no respect to rank or talents, no pity to tender age or sex. Infants, aged matrons, and women upon the point of their delivery were trodden under the feet of the assassins, or dragged with hooks into the rivers; others, after being thrown into prison, were instantly brought out and butchered in cold blood. Seventy thousand persons were murdered in one week. For several days, the streets of Paris literally ran with blood. The savage monarch, standing at the windows of the palace, with his courtiers, glutted his eyes with the inhuman spectacle, and amused himself with firing upon the miserable fugitives who sought shelter at his merciless gates.
The intelligence of this massacre (for which a solemn thanksgiving was offered up at Rome by order of the pope) produced the same horror and consternation in Scotland as in every other Protestant country. It inflicted a deep wound on the exhausted spirit of Knox. Besides the blow struck at the reformed body, he had to lament the loss of many individuals, eminent for piety, learning, and rank, whom he numbered among his acquaintance. Being conveyed to the pulpit, and summoning up the remainder of his strength, he thundered the vengeance of Heaven against “that cruel murderer and false traitor, the King of France,” and desired Le Croc, the French ambassador, to tell his master that sentence was pronounced against him in Scotland, that the divine vengeance would never depart from him, nor from his house, if repentance did not ensue; but his name would remain an execration to posterity, and none proceeding from his loins would enjoy his kingdom in peace. The ambassador complained of the indignity offered to his master, and required the regent to silence the preacher, but this was refused, upon which he left Scotland.
Lawson having received the letters of invitation, hastened to Edinburgh. He had the satisfaction to find that Knox was still able to receive him; and, having preached to the people, gave universal satisfaction. On the following Sabbath, the twenty-first of September, Knox began to preach in the Tolbooth Church, which was now fitted up for him. He chose for the subject of his discourses, the account of our Savior’s crucifixion, as recorded in the twenty-seventh chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, a theme with which he had often expressed a wish to close his ministry. On Sabbath, the ninth of November, he presided at the installation of Lawson as his colleague and successor. The sermon was preached by him in the Tolbooth Church, after which he removed, with the audience, to the large church, where he went through the accustomed form of admission, by proposing the questions to the minister and people, addressing an exhortation to both, and praying for the divine blessing upon their connection. On no former occasion did he give more satisfaction to those who were able to hear him. After declaring the respective duties of pastor and people, he protested, in the presence of Him to whom he expected soon to give an account, that he had walked among them with a good conscience, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all sincerity, not studying to please men, nor to gratify his own affections; he praised God that he had been pleased to give them a pastor in his room, when he was now unable to teach; he fervently prayed that any gifts which had been conferred on himself might be augmented a thousand fold in his successor; and, in a most serious and impressive manner, he exhorted and charged the whole assembly to adhere steadfastly to the faith which they had professed. Having finished the service and pronounced blessing with a cheerful but exhausted voice, he descended from the pulpit, and leaning upon his staff and the arm of an attendant, crept down the street, which was lined with the audience, who, as if anxious to take the last sight of their beloved pastor, followed him until he entered his house, from which he never again came out alive.
On Tuesday following, the eleventh of November, he was seized with a severe cough, which greatly affected his breathing. When his friends, anxious to prolong his life, proposed to call in the assistance of physicians, he readily acquiesced, saying that he would not neglect the ordinary means of health, although he was persuaded that death would soon put an end to all his sorrows. It had been his ordinary practice to read every day some chapters of the Old and New Testament, to which he added a certain number of the Psalms of David, the whole of which he perused regularly once a month. On Thursday the thirteenth, he sickened, and was obliged to desist from his course of reading, but he gave directions to his wife and his secretary, Richard Bannatyne, that one of them should every day read to him, with a distinct voice, the seventeenth chapter of the gospel according to John, the fifty-third of Isaiah, and a chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. This was punctually complied with during the whole time of his sickness, and scarcely an hour passed in which some part of Scripture was not read in his hearing. Besides the above passages, he, at different times, fixed on certain Psalms, and some of Calvin’s French sermons on the Ephesians. Thinking him at times to be asleep, when they were engaged in reading, they inquired if he heard them, to which he answered, “I hear (I praise God), and understand far better”—words which he uttered for the last time, within four hours of his death.
The same day on which he sickened, he desired his wife to discharge the servants’ wages, and wishing next day to pay one of his men-servants himself, he gave him twenty shillings above his fee, saying, “Thou wilt never receive more from me in this life.” To all of them he addressed suitable exhortations to walk in the fear of God, and as became Christians who had lived in his family.
On Friday, the fourteenth, he rose from bed at an earlier hour than usual, and thinking that it was Sabbath, said that he meant to go to church, and preach on the resurrection of Christ, upon which had been meditating through the night. This was the subject on which he should have preached in his ordinary course. But he was so weak that he needed to be supported from his bedside by two men, and it was with great difficulty that he sit on a chair.
Next day, at noon, John Durie, one of the ministers of Leith, and Archibald Steward, who were among his most intimate acquaintance, came into his room. Perceiving that he was very sick, they wished to take their leave, but he insisted that they remain, and having prevailed with them to stay for dinner, rose from bed and came to the table, which was the last time he ever sat at it. He ordered a hogshead of wine which in his cellar to be pierced for them; and, with a hilarity which he delighted to indulge among his friends, desired Steward to send for some of it as long as it lasted, for he would not tarry until it was all drunk.
On Sabbath, the sixteenth, he kept his bed, and mistaking it for the first day of the fast appointed on account of the French massacre, refused to take any dinner. Fairley of Braid, who was present, informed him that the fast did not commence until the following Sabbath, and sitting down, and dining before his bed, prevailed on him to take a little food.
He was very anxious to meet once more with the session of the Church, to leave them his dying charge, and bid them a last farewell. In compliance with this wish, his colleague, the elders, and deacons, with David Lindsay, one of the ministers of Leith, assembled in his room on Monday the seventeenth, when he addressed them in the following words, which made a deep and lasting impression on the minds of all: “The day approaches, and is now before the door, for which I have frequently and vehemently thirsted, when I shall be released from my great labours and innumerable sorrows, and shall be with Christ. And now, God is my witness whom I have served in the spirit in the gospel of his Son, that I have taught nothing but the true and solid doctrine of the gospel of the Son of God, and have had it for my only object to instruct the ignorant, to confirm the faithful, to comfort the weak, the fearful, and the distressed, by the promises of grace, and to fight against the proud and rebellious by the divine threatenings. I know that many have frequently complained, and do still loudly complain, of my too great severity, but God knows that my mind was always void of hatred to the persons of those against whom I thundered the severest judgments. I cannot deny that I felt the greatest abhorrence at the sins in which they indulged, but still I kept this one thing in view, that, if possible, I might gain them to the Lord. What influenced me to utter whatever the Lord put into my mouth, so boldly, and without respect of persons, was a reverential fear of my God, who called and of his grace appointed me to be a steward of divine mysteries, and a belief that he will demand an account of the manner in which I have discharged the trust committed to me, when I shall stand at last before his tribunal. I profess, therefore, before God, and before his holy angels, that I never made merchandise of the sacred word of God, never studied to please men, never indulged my own private passions or those of others, but faithfully distributed the talents intrusted to me for the edification of the church over which I watched. Whatever obloquy wicked men may cast on me respecting this point, I rejoice to the testimony of a good conscience. In the mean time, my dear brethren, do you persevere in the eternal truth of the gospel; wait diligently on the flock over which the Lord hath set you, and which he redeemed with the blood of his only begotten Son. And thou, my dearest brother Lawson, fight the good fight, and do the work of the Lord joyfully and resolutely. The Lord from on high bless you, and the whole church of Edinburgh, against whom, as long as they persevere in the word of truth which they have heard of me, the gates of hell shall not prevail.” Having warned them against countenancing those who disowned the king’s authority, and made some observations on a complaint which Maitland had lodged against him before the session, he became so exhausted as to be obliged to desist from speaking. Those who were present were filled both with joy and grief by this affecting address. After reminding him of the warfare which he had endured, and the triumph which awaited him, and joining in prayer, they took their leave of him, drowned in tears.
When they were going out, he desired his colleague and Lindsay to remain behind. “There is one thing that greatly grieves me,” said he to them. “You have been witnesses of the former courage and constancy of Grange in the cause of God; but now, alas! into what a gulf has he precipitated himself! I entreat you not to refuse the request which I now make to you. Go to the castle, and tell him, ‘John Knox remains the same man now when he is about to die, that ever he knew him when able in body, and wills him to consider what he was, and the estate in which he now stands, which is a great part of his trouble. Neither the craggy rock in which he miserably confides, nor the carnal prudence of that man [Maitland] whom he esteems a demi-god, nor the assistance of strangers, shall preserve him; but he shall be disgracefully dragged from his nest to punishment, and hung on a gallows before the face of the sun, unless he speedily amend his life, and flee to the mercy of God.’ That man’s soul is dear to me, and I would not have it perish if I could save it.” The ministers undertook to execute this commission, and going up to the castle, they obtained an interview with the governor, and delivered their message. He at first exhibited symptoms of relenting, but having conferred apart with Maitland, he returned, and gave them a very unpleasant answer. This being reported to Knox, he was much grieved, and said that he had been earnest in prayer for that man, and still trusted that his soul would be saved, although his body should come to a miserable end.
After the castle surrendered, and Kircaldy was condemned to die, Lindsay attended him at his earnest desire, and received much satisfaction from conversation with him. When he was on the scaffold, he desired the minister to repeat Knox’s last words respecting him, and said that he hoped they would prove true.
After his interview with the session he became much worse; his difficulty of breathing increased, and he could not speak without great and obvious pain. Yet he continued still to receive persons of every rank, who came in great numbers to visit him, and suffered none to go away without advices, which he uttered with such variety and suitableness as astonished those who waited upon him. Lord Boyd, coming into his chamber, said, “I know, sir, that I have offended you in many things, and am now come to crave your pardon.” The answer was not heard, as the attendants retired and left them alone; but his lordship returned next day in company with Drumlanrig and Morton. The reformer’s private conversation with the latter was very particular, as afterwards related by the earl himself. He asked him if he was previously acquainted with the design to murder the late king. Morton having answered in the negative, he said, “Well, God has beautified you with many benefits, which he has not given to every man; as he has given you riches, wisdom, and friends, and now is to prefer you to the government of this realm. And, therefore, in the name of God, I charge you to use all these benefits aright, and better in time to come than ye have done in times bypast; first to God’s glory, to the furtherance of the evangel, the maintenance of the Church of God, and his ministry; next for the weal of the king and his realm and true subjects. If so ye shall do, God shall bless you and honour you, but if ye do it not, God shall spoil you of these benefits, and your end shall be ignominy and shame.”
Morton afterwards acknowledged that he did know of the murder, but excused himself for concealing it. “The quene,” he said, “was the doare tharoof,” and as for the king, he was “sic a bairne, that there was nothing tauld him but he wad reveill it to hir agane.”
The regent Mar died on the twenty-ninth of October preceding. The nobility at this time assembled at Edinburgh to choose his successor, and it was understood that Morton would be raised to that dignity.
On Thursday, the twentieth, Lord Lindsay, the Bishop of Caithness, and several gentlemen visited him. He exhorted them to continue in the truth which they had heard, for there was no other word of salvation, and besought them to have nothing to do with those in the castle. The Earl of Glencairn (who had often visited him) came in with Lord Ruthven. The latter, who called only once, said to him, “If there be any thing, sir, that I am able to do for you, I pray you charge me.” His reply was, “I care not for all the pleasure and friendship of the world.”
A religious lady of his acquaintance desired him to praise God for what good he had done, and was beginning to speak in his commendation, when he interrupted her. “Tongue! tongue! lady; flesh of itself is over-proud, and needs no means to esteem itself.” He put her in mind of what had been said to her long ago, “Lady, lady, the black one has never trampit on your fute,” and exhorted her to lay aside pride and be clothed with humility. He then protested as to himself, as he had often done before, that he relied wholly on the free mercy of God, manifested to mankind through his dear Son Jesus Christ, whom alone he embraced for wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. The rest of the company having taken their leave of him, he said to Fairley of Braid, “Every one bids me good-night; but when will you do it? I have been greatly indebted unto you, for which I shall never be able to recompense you, but I commit you to one that is able to do it, to the eternal God.”
On Friday the twenty-first, he desired Richard Bannatyne to order his coffin to be made. During that day he was much engaged in meditation and prayer. These words dropped from his lips at intervals: “Come, Lord Jesus. Sweet Jesus, into thy hand I commend my spirit. Be merciful, Lord, to thy Church, which thou hast redeemed. Give peace to this afflicted commonwealth. Raise up faithful pastors who will take the charge of thy Church. Grant us, Lord, the perfect hatred of sin, both by the evidences of thy wrath and mercy. In the midst of his meditations, he often addressed those who stood by in such sentences as these: “O serve the Lord in fear, and death shall not be terrible to you. Nay, blessed shall death be to those who have felt the power of the death of the only begotten Son of God.”
On Sabbath the twenty-third (which was the first day of the national fast) during the afternoon sermon, after lying a considerable time quiet, he suddenly exclaimed, “If any be present, let them come and see the work of God.” Thinking that his death was at hand, Bannatyne sent to the Church for Johnston of Elphingston. When he came to the bedside, Knox burst out in these rapturous expressions: “I have been these two last nights in meditation on the troubled state of the Church of God, the spouse of Jesus Christ, despised of the world, but precious in the sight God. I have called to God for her, and have committed her to her head, Jesus Christ. I have fought against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things, and have prevailed. I have been in heaven, and have possession. I have tasted of the heavenly joys where presently I am.” He then repeated the Lord’s prayer and the creed, interjecting devout aspirations between the articles of the latter.
After sermon, many came to visit him. Perceiving that he breathed with great difficulty, some of them asked if he felt much pain. He answered that he was willing to lie there for years, if God so pleased, and if he continued to shine upon his soul through Jesus Christ. He slept very little, but was employed almost incessantly either in meditation, in prayer, or in exhortation. “Live in Christ. Live in Christ, and then flesh need not fear death.” “Lord, grant true pastors to thy Church, that purity of doctrine may be retained.” “Restore peace again to this commonwealth, with godly rulers and magistrates.” “Lord, make an end of my trouble.” Then, stretching his hands towards heaven, he said, “Lord, I commend my spirit, soul, and body, and all, into thy hands. Thou knowest, Lord, my troubles; I do not murmur against thee.” His pious ejaculations were so numerous that those who waited on him could recollect only a small portion of what he uttered, for seldom was he silent when they were not employed in reading or in prayer.
Monday, the twenty-fourth of November, was the last day that he spent on earth. That morning he could not be persuaded to lie in bed, but, though unable to stand alone, rose between nine and ten o’clock, and put on his stockings and doublet. Being conducted to a chair, he sat about half an hour, and then was put to bed again. In the progress of the day, it appeared evident that his end drew near. Besides his wife and Bannatyne, Campbell of Kinyeancleugh, Johnston of Elphingston, and Dr. Preston, three of his most intimate acquaintance, sat by turns at his bedside. Kinyeancleugh asked him if he had any pain. “It is no painful pain, but such a pain as shall soon, I trust, put end to the battle. I must leave the care of my wife and children to you,” continued he, “to whom you must be a husband in my room.” About three o’clock in the afternoon, one of his eyes failed, and his speech was considerably affected. He desired his wife to read the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. “Is not that a comfortable chapter?” said he, when it was finished. “O what sweet and salutary consolation the Lord has afforded me from that chapter!” A little after he said, “Now, for the last time, I commend my soul, spirit, and body (touching three of his fingers) into thy hand, O Lord.” About five o’clock, he said to his wife, “Go, read where I cast my first anchor,” upon which she read the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and afterwards a part of Calvin’s sermons on the Ephesians.
After this he appeared to fall into a slumber, interrupted by heavy moans, during which the attendants looked every moment for his dissolution. But at length he awaked, as if from sleep, and being asked the cause of his sighing so deeply, replied, “I have formerly, during my frail life, sustained many contests, and many assaults of Satan, but at present he hath assailed me most fearfully, and put forth all his strength to devour, and make an end of me at once. Often before has he placed my sins before my eyes, often tempted me to despair, often endeavored to ensnare me by the allurements of the world, but these weapons were broken by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and the enemy failed. Now he has attacked me in another way; the cunning serpent has labored to persuade me that I have merited heaven and eternal blessedness by the faithful discharge of my ministry. But blessed be God, who has enabled me to beat down and quench this fiery dart, by suggesting to me such passages of Scripture as these: ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received?’ ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ ‘Not I, but the grace of God in me.’ Upon this, as one vanquished, he left me. Wherefore I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ, who has been pleased to give me the victory, and I am persuaded that the tempter shall not again attack me, but, within a short time, I shall, without any great pain of body or anguish of mind, exchange this mortal and miserable life for a blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.”
He then lay quiet for some hours, except that now and then he desired them to wet his mouth with a little weak ale. At ten o’clock they read the evening prayer, which they had delayed beyond the usual hour, from an apprehension that he was asleep. After this exercise was concluded, Dr. Preston asked him if he had heard the prayers. “Would to God,” said he, “that you and all men had heard them as I have heard them; I praise God for that heavenly sound.” The doctor rose up, and Kinyeancleugh sat down before his bed. About eleven o’clock, he heaved a deep sigh, and said, “Now it is come.” Bannatyne immediately drew near, and desired him to think upon those comfortable promises of our Savior Jesus Christ, which he had so often declared to others, and, perceiving that he was speechless, requested him to give them a sign that he heard them, and died in peace. Upon this he lifted up one of his hands, and, sighing twice, expired without a struggle.
He died in the sixty-seventh year of his age, not so much oppressed with years as worn out and exhausted by his extraordinary labors of body and anxieties of mind. Few men were ever exposed to more dangers or underwent greater hardships. From the time that he embraced the reformed religion till he breathed his last, seldom did he enjoy a respite from trouble, and he emerged from one scene of difficulty and danger, only to be involved in another still more distressing. Obliged to flee from St. Andrews to escape the fury of Cardinal Beatoun, he found a retreat in East-Lothian, from which he was hunted by Archbishop Hamilton. He lived for several years as an outlaw, in daily apprehension of falling a prey to those who eagerly sought his life. The few months during which he enjoyed protection in the castle of St. Andrews were succeeded by a long and rigorous captivity. After enjoying some repose England, he was again driven into banishment, and for five years wandered as an exile on the Continent. When he retuned to native country, it was to engage in a struggle of the most perilous and arduous kind. After the Reformation was established, and he was settled in the capital, he was involved in a continual contest with the court. When he was relieved from this warfare, and thought only of ending his days in peace, he was again called into the field; and although scarcely able to walk, was obliged to remove from his flock, and to avoid the fury of his enemies by submitting to a new banishment. He was repeatedly condemned for heresy, and proclaimed an outlaw; thrice he was accused of high treason, and on two of these occasions he appeared and underwent a trial. A price was publicly set on his head; assassins were employed to kill hint; and his life was attempted both with the pistol and the dagger. Yet he escaped all these perils, and finished his course in peace and in honor. No wonder that he was weary of the world, and anxious to depart; and with great propriety might it be said, at his decease, that “he rested froth his labors.”
On Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of November, he was interred in the churchyard of St. Giles. His funeral was attended by the newly elected regent, Morton, by all the nobility who were in the city, and a great concourse of people. When his body was laid in the grave, the regent emphatically pronounced his eulogium in these words, “There lies he, who never feared the face of man.”
The character of this extraordinary man has been drawn in opposite colors, by different writers, and at different times. And the changes which have taken place in the public opinion about him, with the causes which have produced them, form a subject neither uncurious, nor unworthy of attention.
The interest excited by the revolutions of Scotland, ecclesiastical and political, in which he acted so conspicuous a part, caused his name to be known throughout Europe, more extensively than those of most of the reformers. When we reflect that the Roman Catholics looked upon him as the principal instrument in overthrowing their religious establishment in this country, we are prepared to expect that writers of that persuasion would represent his character in an unfavorable light; and that, in addition to the common charges of heresy and apostasy, they would describe him as a man of a restless, turbulent spirit, and of rebellious principles. We will not even be greatly surprised though we find them charging him with whoredom, because, being a priest, he entered into wedlock, once and a second time, and imputing his change of religion to a desire of releasing himself from the bonds by which the Popish clergy were professionally bound to chastity. But all this is nothing to the portraits which they have drawn of him, in which, to the violation of all credibility, he is unblushingly represented as a man, or rather a monster, of the most profligate character, who gloried in depravity, who avowedly indulged in the most vicious practices, and upon whom Providence fixed the most evident marks of reprobation at his death, which was accompanied with circumstances that excited the utmost horror of the beholders. This might astonish us, did we not know, from undoubted documents, that there were at that time a class of writers, who, by inventing or retailing such malignant calumnies, attempted to blast the fairest and most unblemished characters among those who appeared in opposition to the Church of Rome; and that, absurd and outrageous as the accusations were, they were greedily swallowed by the numerous slaves of prejudice and credulity. The memory of no one was loaded with a greater share of this obloquy than our reformer’s. But these accounts have long ago lost every degree of credit; they now remain only as a proof of the spirit of lies or of strong delusion, by which these writers were actuated, and of the deep and deadly hatred which they had conceived against the object of their calumny, on account of his strenuous and successful exertions in overthrowing the fabric of papal superstition and despotism.
Knox was known and esteemed by the principal persons long the reformed in France, Switzerland, and Germany. We have had occasion repeatedly to mention his friendship with the reformer of Geneva. Beza, the successor of Calvin, was also personally acquainted with him; the letters which he wrote to him abound with expressions of the warmest regard, and highest esteem; and, in his Images of Illustrious Men, he afterwards raised an affectionate tribute to our reformer’s memory. This was done, at a subsequent period, by the German biographer Melchior Adam, the Dutch Van Heiden, and the French La Roque. The late historian of the literature of Geneva (whose religious sentiments are very different from those of Calvin and Beza), although he is displeased with the philippics which Knox sometimes pronounced from the pulpit, says, that “he immortalized himself by his courage against Popery, and his firmness against the tyranny of Mary; and that though a violent, he was always an open and honourable, enemy to the Catholics.”
The affectionate veneration in which his memory continued to beheld in Scotland after his death, evinces that the influence which he possessed among his countrymen during his life was not constrained, but founded on the high opinion which they entertained of his virtues and talents. Bannatyne has drawn his character in the most glowing colors, and, although allowances must be made for the enthusiasm with which a favorite servant wrote of a beloved and revered master, yet, as he lived long in the reformer’s family, and was himself a man of respectability and learning, his testimony is by no means to he disregarded. In a speech which he delivered before the General Assembly in March 1571, when, in his master’s name, he craved justice against the calumnies circulated by the queen’s party, he said, “It has pleased God to make me a servant to that man John Knox, whom I serve, as God bears me witness, not so much in respect of my worldly commodity, as for that integrity and uprightness which I have ever known, and presently understand, to be in him, especially in the faithful administration of his office, in teaching of the word of God; and if I understood, or knew that he was a false teacher, a seducer, a raiser of schism, or one that makes division in the Church of God, as he is reported to be by the former accusations, I would not serve him for all the substance in Edinburgh.” And, in his journal, after giving an account of Knox’s death, he adds, “In this manner departed this man of God: the light of Scotland, the comfort of the Church within the same, the mirror of godliness, and pattern and example to all true ministers, in purity of life, soundness of doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickedness; one that cared not the favour of men, how great soever they were. What dexterity in teaching, boldness in reproving, and hatred of wickedness was in him, my ignorant dulness is not able to declare, which if I should preis [labor] to set out, it were as one who would light a candle to let men see the sun, seeing all his virtues are better known and notified to the world a thousand fold than I am able to express.”
Principal Smeton’s character of him, while it is less liable to the suspicion of partiality, is equally honorable and flattering. “I know not,” says he, “if ever so much piety and genius were lodged in such a frail and weak body. Certain I am, that it will be difficult to find one in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit shone so bright, to the comfort of the Church of Scotland. None spared himself less in enduring fatigues, bodily and mental; none was more intent on discharging the duties of the province assigned to him.” And again, addressing his calumniator Hamilton, he says, “This illustrious, I say illustrious servant of God, John Knox, I shall clear from your feigned accusations and slanders by the testimony of a venerable assembly rather than by my own denial. This pious duty, this reward of a well-spent life, all its members most cheerfully discharge to their excellent instructor in Christ Jesus. This testimony of gratitude they all owe to him, who, they know, ceased not to deserve well of all till he ceased to breathe. Released from a body exhausted in Christian warfare, and translated to a blessed rest, where he has obtained the sweet reward of his labours, he now triumphs with Christ. But beware, sycophant, of insulting him when dead; for he has left behind him as many defenders of his reputation as there are persons who were drawn by his faithful preaching, from the gulf of ignorance to the knowledge of the gospel.”
The divines of the Church of England who were contemporary with Knox entertained a great respect for his character and ranked him along with the roost eminent of their own reformers. I have already produced the mark of esteem which Bishop Bale conferred on him, and the terms of approbation in which he was mentioned by Dr. Fulke, one of the most learned of the English divines in the sixteenth century. Aylmer, in a work written to confute one of his opinions, bears a voluntary testimony to his learning and integrity. And Ridley, who stickled more for the ceremonies of the Church than any of his brethren in the reign of Edward VI and who was displeased with the opposition which Knox made to the introduction of the English liturgy at Frankfort, expressed his high opinion of him as “a man of wit, much good learning, and earnest zeal.” Whatever dissatisfaction they felt at his pointed reprehension of several parts of their ecclesiastical establishment, the English dignitaries, under Elizabeth, rejoiced at the success of his exertions, and without scruple expressed their approbation of many of his measures, which were afterwards severely censured by their successors. I need scarcely add, that his memory was in veneration by the English Puritans. Some of the chief men among them were personally acquainted with him during his residence in England and on the Continent, and others of them corresponded with him by letter. They highly esteemed his writings, sought for his manuscripts with avidity, and published them with testimonies of the warmest approbation.
Towards the close of the sixteenth century, there arose another race of prelates, of very different principles from the English reformers, who began to maintain the divine right of diocesan Episcopacy, with the intrinsic excellency of a ceremonious worship, and to adopt a new language respecting other reformed churches. Dr. Bancroft, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first writer among them who spoke disrespectfully of Knox, after whom it became a fashionable practice among the hierarchical party. This was resented by the ministers of Scotland, who warmly vindicated the character of their reformer, at the expense of incurring the frowns and resentment of their sovereign. Though educated under the greatest scholar of the age, and one who was a decided friend to popular liberty, James, in spite of the instructions of Buchanan, proved a pedant, and cowardice alone prevented him from becoming a tyrant. His early favorites flattered his vanity, fostered his love of arbitrary power, and inspired him with the strongest prejudice against the principles and conduct of those men who, during his early years, had been the instruments of preserving his life, and supporting his authority. To secure his succession to the English crown, he entered into a private correspondence with Bancroft, and concerted with him the scheme of introducing Episcopacy into the Church of Scotland. The Presbyterian ministers incurred his deep and lasting displeasure by their determined resistance to this design, and by united and firm opposition which they made to the illegal despotic measures of his government. He was particularly displeased at the testimony which they publicly bore to the characters of Knox, Buchanan, and the regent Murray, who “could not be defended,” he said, “but by traitors, and seditious theologues.” Andrew Melville told him that they were men who had set the crown on his head, and deserved better of him than to be so traduced. James complained that Knox had spoken disrespectfully of his mother, to which Patrick Galloway, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, replied, “If a king or a queen be a murderer, why should they not be called so?” Walter Balcanquhal, another minister of the city, having in one of his sermons rebuked those who disparaged reformer, the king sent for him, and in a passion protested that “either he should lose his crown, or Mr. Walter should recant his words.” Balcanquhal “prayed God to preserve his crown, but said that if he had his right wits, the king should have his head, before he recanted any thing he spake.”
James carried his antipathies to the Presbyterian Church and reformers along with him to England, and he found it an easy matter to infuse them into the minds of his new subjects. Incensed at the freedom which Buchanan had used in his history of the transactions during the reign of Mary, he had, before leaving Scotland, procured the condemnation of that work by an act of parliament. And now he did not think it enough that he had got Camden’s history of that period manufactured to his mind, but employed agents to induce the French historian De Thou to adopt his representations; and because that great man scrupled to receive the royal testimony respecting events which happened before James was born, or when he was a child, in opposition to the most credible evidence, his majesty was pleased to complain that he had been treated disrespectfully. Charles I carried these prejudices even further than his father had done. During his reign, passive obedience, arminianism, and semi-popery formed the court religion; Calvinism and presbytery were held in the greatest detestation, and proscribed both as political and religious heresies. In the reign of the second Charles, the court, the bench, the pulpit, the press, and the stage united in loading Presbyterians with every species of abuse, and in holding them forth as a gloomy, unsocial, turbulent, and fanatical race. And a large share of these contumelies uniformly fell on the head of Knox, who, it was alleged, had brought the obnoxious principles of the sect from Geneva and planted them in his native country, from which they had spread into England. The revolution was effected in England by a coalition of parties of very different principles, some of which were not of the most liberal kind. Though this event abated the force of the prejudices alluded to, it by no means removed them, and a considerable time after it took place, the great, the fashionable, and even the learned, among the English, regarded the Scots as only beginning to emerge from that inelegance and barbarism which had been produced by the peculiar sentiments of Knox and his followers.
The great body of his countrymen, however, continued long to entertain a just sense of the many obligations which they were under to Knox. After the government of the Church of Scotland was conformed to the English model, the Scottish prelates still professed to look back to their national reformer with sentiments of gratitude and veneration, and Archbishop Spotswood describes him as “a man endued with rare gifts, and a chief instrument that God used for the work of those times.” For a considerable time after the revolution, the Presbyterians of Scotland treated with deserved contempt the libels which English writers had published against him, and blushed not to avow their admiration of a man to whose labors they were indebted for an ecclesiastical establishment more scriptural and more liberal than that of which their neighbors could boast. The Union first produced a change in our national feelings on this subject. The short-lived jealousy of English predominance, felt by many of our countrymen on that occasion, was succeeded by a passion for conformity to our southern neighbors; and so fond did we become of their good opinion, and so eager to secure it, that we were disposed to sacrifice to their taste and their prejudices, sentiments which truth, as well as national honor, required us to retain and cherish. Our most popular writers are not exempt from this charge; and even in works professing to be executed by the united talents of our literati, the misrepresentations and gross blunders of which English writers had been guilty in their accounts of our Reformation, and the false and scandalous accusations which they had brought against our reformers, have been generally adopted and widely circulated, instead of meeting with the exposure and reprobation which they so justly merited.
The prejudices entertained against our reformer by the friends of absolute monarchy, were taken up, in all their force, subsequently to the Revolution, by the adherents of the Stuart family, whose religious notions, approximating very nearly to the popish, joined with their slavish principle respecting non-resistance to kings, led them to disapprove of almost every measure adopted at the time of the Reformation, and to condemn the whole as a series of disorder, sedition, and rebellion against lawful authority. The spirit by which the Jacobitish faction was actuated did not become extinct with the family which had so long been the object of their devotion; and while they transferred their allegiance to the house of Hanover, they retained principles which had incited them repeatedly to attempt its expulsion from the throne. The alarm produced by that revolution which of late has shaken the thrones of so many of the princes of Europe, has greatly increased this party; and with the view of preserving the present constitution of Britain, principles have been widely disseminated which if they had been generally received in the sixteenth century, would have perpetuated the reign of Popery and arbitrary power in Scotland. From persons of such principles, nothing favorable to our reformer can be expected. But the greatest torrent of abuse poured upon his character, has proceeded from those literary champions who have come forward to avenge the wrongs, and vindicate the innocence of the peerless and immaculate Mary, Queen of Scots! Having conjured up in their imagination the image of an ideal goddess, they have sacrificed to the object of their adoration all the characters, which, in that age, were most estimable for learning, patriotism, integrity, and religion. As if the quarrel which they had espoused exempted them from ordinary laws of controversial warfare, and conferred on them the absolute and indefeasible privilege of calumniating and defaming at pleasure, they have pronounced every person who spoke, wrote, or acted against that queen, to be a hypocrite or a villain. In the raving style of these writers, Knox was “a fanatical incendiary,” “a holy savage,” “the son of violence and barbarism,” “the religious Sachem of religious Mohawks.”
I cannot do justice to the subject without adverting here to the influence of those transactions written by two distinguished individuals of our own country. The political prejudices and skeptical opinions of Mr. Hume are well known, and appear prominently in every part of his History of England. Regarding the various systems of religious belief and worship as distinguished from one another merely by different shades of falsehood and superstition, he has been led, by a strange but not inexplicable bias, almost uniformly to show the most marked partiality to the grosser and more corrupt forms of religion, has spoken with greater contempt of the Protestants than of the Roman Catholics, and treated the Scottish with greater severity than the English reformers. Forgetting what was due to the character of a philosopher, which he was so ambitious to maintain in his other writings, he has acted as the partisan and advocate of a particular family, and, in vindicating some of the worst measures of the Stuarts, has done signal injustice to the memory of the most illustrious patriots of both kingdoms. Though convinced that the Queen of Scotland was guilty of the crimes laid to her charge, he has labored to screen her from the infamy to which a fair and unvarnished statement of facts must have exposed her character, by fixing the attention of his readers on an untrue and exaggerated representation of the rudeness of Knox and the other reformers by whom she was surrounded, and by absurdly imputing to their treatment of her the faults into which she was betrayed.
No person who is acquainted with the writings of Dr. Robertson will accuse him of being actuated by such improper motives. But the warmest admirers of his History of Scotland cannot deny that he has been misled by the temptation of making Mary the heroine of his story, and of thus interesting his readers deeply in his narrative by blending the tender and romantic with the more dry and uninteresting detail of public transactions. By a studious exhibition of the personal charms and accomplishments of the queen, by representing her faults as arising from the unfortunate circumstances in which she was placed, by touching gently on the errors of her conduct, while he dwells on the cruelty and the dissimulation of her rival, and by describing her sufferings as exceeding the tragical distresses which fancy has feigned to excite sorrow and commiseration, he throws a veil over those vices which he could not deny, while the sympathy which his pathetic account of her death naturally awakens in the minds of his readers effaces the impressions of her guilt which his preceding narrative had produced. However amiable the feelings of the author might be, the tendency of such a representation is evident. The Dissertation on the murder of King Henry has, no doubt, convinced many of Mary’s accession to the perpetration of that deed, but the History of Scotland has done more to prepossess the public mind in favor of that princess than all the defenses of her most zealous and ingenious advocates, and consequently, to excite prejudice against her opponents, who, on the supposition of her guilt, acted a most meritorious part, and are entitled, in other respects, to the gratitude and veneration of posterity.
The increase of infidelity and indifference to religion in modern times, especially among the learned, has contributed, in no small degree, to swell the tide of prejudice against our reformer. Whatever satisfaction persons of this description may express or feel at the reformation from Popery, as the means of emancipating the world from superstition and priestcraft, they naturally despise and dislike men who were inspired with the love of religion, and in whose plans of reform the acquisition of civil liberty, and the advancement of literature, held a subordinate place to the revival of primitive Christianity.
Nor can it escape observation that prejudices against the characters and proceedings of our reformers are now far more general than they formerly were among those who still profess to adhere to their doctrine and system of church government. Impressed with a high idea of the illumination of the present and entertaining a low estimate of the attainments of those which preceded it, imperfectly acquainted with the enormity and extent of the corrupt system of religion which existed in this country at the era of the Reformation, inattentive to the spirit and principles of the adversaries with whom our reformers were obliged to contend, and to the dangers and difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have too easily lent an ear to calumnies which have been circulated to their prejudice, and have condemned measures which will be found, on examination, to have been necessary to secure and to transmit the invaluable blessings which we now enjoy.
Having given this account of the opinions entertained respecting our reformer, I shall endeavor to sketch, with as much truth as I can, the leading features of his character.
That he possessed strong natural talents is unquestionable. Inquisitive, ardent, acute; vigorous and bold in his conceptions; he entered into all the subtleties of the scholastic science then in vogue; yet, disgusted with its barren results, he sought out a new course of study, which gradually led to a complete revolution in his sentiments. In his early years he had not access to that finished education which many of his contemporaries obtained in foreign universities, and he was afterwards prevented, by his unsettled and active mode of life, from prosecuting his studies with leisure; but his abilities and application enabled him in a great measure to surmount these disadvantages, and he remained a stranger to none of the branches of learning which in that age were cultivated by persons of his profession. He united, in a high degree, the love of study, with a disposition to active employment. The truths which he discovered he felt an irresistible impulse to impart to others, for which he was qualified by a bold, fervid, and impetuous eloquence, singularly adapted to arrest the attention, and govern the passions, of a fierce and unpolished people.
From the time that he embraced the reformed doctrine, the desire of propagating it, and of delivering his countrymen from the delusions and thralldom of Popery, became his ruling passion, to which he was always ready to sacrifice his ease, his interest, his reputation, and his life. An ardent attachment to civil liberty held the next place in his breast to love of the reformed religion. That the zeal with which he labored to advance these objects was of the most disinterested kind, no candid person who has paid attention to his life can doubt for a moment, whatever opinion may be entertained of some of the means which he employed for that purpose. He thought only of advancing the glory of God, and promoting the welfare of his country. Intrepidity, independence, and elevation of mind, indefatigable activity, and constancy which no disappointments could shake, eminently qualified him for the hazardous and difficult post which he occupied. His integrity was above the suspicion of corruption, his firmness proof equally against the solicitations of friends and the threats of enemies. Though his impetuosity and courage led him frequently to expose himself to danger, we never find him neglecting to take prudent precautions for his safety. The confidence reposed in him by his countrymen shows the high opinion which they entertained of his sagacity as well as of his honesty. The measures taken for advancing the Reformation were either adopted at his suggestion or sanctioned by his advice, and we must pronounce them to have been as wisely planned as they were boldly executed.
His ministerial functions were discharged with the greatest assiduity, fidelity, and fervor. No avocation or infirmity prevented him from appearing in the pulpit. Preaching was an employment in which he delighted, and for which he was qualified, by an extensive acquaintance with the Scriptures and by the happy art of applying them, in the most striking manner, to the existing circumstances of the Church and of his hearers. His powers of alarming the conscience and arousing the passions have been frequently celebrated, but he excelled also in unfolding the consolations of the gospel, and in calming the breasts of those who were agitated by a sense of guilt, or suffering under the ordinary afflictions of life. When he discoursed of the griefs and joys, the conflicts and triumphs, of genuine Christians, he described what he had himself known and experienced. The letters which he wrote to his familiar acquaintances breathe the most ardent piety. The religious meditations in which he spent his last sickness, were not confined to that period of his life; they had been his habitual employment from the time that he was brought to the knowledge of the truth, and his solace amidst all the hardships and perils through which he had passed.
With his brethren in the ministry he lived in the utmost cordiality. We never read of the slightest variance between him and any of his colleagues. While he was dreaded and hated by the licentious and profane, whose vices he never spared, the religious and sober part of his countrymen felt a veneration for him, which was founded on his unblemished reputation, as well his popular talents as a preacher. In private life, he was eyed and revered by his friends and domestics. He was subject to the illapses of melancholy and depression of spirits, arising partly from natural constitution, and partly from the maladies which had long preyed upon his health, which made him (to use his own expression) churlish, and less capable of pleasing and gratifying his friends than he was otherwise disposed to be. This he confessed, and requested them to excuse; but his friendship was sincere, affectionate, and steady. When free from this morose affection, he relished the pleasures of society, and, among his acquaintances, was accustomed to unbend his mind by indulging in innocent recreation and in the sallies of humor, to which he had a strong propensity, notwithstanding the graveness of his general deportment. In the course of his public life, the severer virtues of his character were more frequently called into exercise, but we have met with repeated instances of his acute sensibility, and the unaffected tenderness which occasionally breaks forth in his private letters shows that he was no stranger to any of the charities of human life, and that he could “rejoice with them that rejoiced, and weep with them that wept.”
Most of his faults may be traced to his natural temperament and to the character of the age and country in which he lived. His passions were strong; he felt with the utmost keenness on every subject which interested him; and as he felt he expressed himself, without disguise and without affectation. The warmth of his zeal was apt to betray him into intemperate language; his inflexible adherence to his opinions inclined to obstinacy; and his independence of mind occasionally assumed the appearance of haughtiness and disdain. In one solitary instance, the anxiety which he felt for the preservation of the great cause in which he was so deeply interested, betrayed him into an advice which was not more inconsistent with the laws of strict morality, than it was contrary to the stern uprightness, and undisguised sincerity, which characterized the rest of his conduct. A stranger to complimentary or smooth language, little concerned about the manner in which his reproofs were received, provided they were merited, too much impressed with the evil of the offense to think of the rank or character of the offender, he often “uttered his admonitions with an acrimony and vehemence more apt to irritate than to reclaim.” But he protested at a time when persons are least in danger of deception, and in a manner which should banish every suspicion of the purity of his motives, that, in his sharpest rebukes, he was influenced by hatred of vice, not of the vicious; that his great aim was to reclaim the guilty, and that in using those means which were necessary for this end, he frequently did violence to his own feelings.
Those who have charged him with insensibility and inhumanity have fallen into a mistake very common with superficial thinkers, who, in judging of the character of persons who lived in a state of society very different from their own, have pronounced upon their moral qualities from the mere aspect of their exterior manners. He was austere, not unfeeling; stern, not savage; vehement, not vindictive. There is not an instance of his employing his influence to revenge any personal injury which he had received. Rigid as his maxims respecting the execution of justice were, there are numerous instances on record of his interceding for the pardon of criminals; and, unless when crimes were atrocious, or when the welfare of the state was in the most imminent danger, he never exhorted the executive government to the exercise of severity. The boldness and ardor of his mind, called forth by the peculiar circumstances of the times, led him to push his sentiments on some subjects to an extreme, and no consideration could induce him to retract an opinion of which he continued to be persuaded; but his behavior after his publication against female government proves that he satisfied himself with declaring his own views, without seeking to disturb the public peace by urging their adoption. His conduct at Frankfort evinced his moderation in religious differences among brethren of the same faith, and his disposition to make all reasonable allowances for those who could not go the same length with him in reformation, provided they abstained from imposing upon the consciences of others. The liberties which he took in censuring from the pulpit the actions of individuals of the highest rank and station, appear the more strange and intolerable to us, when contrasted with the reserve and timidity of modern times; but we should recollect that they were then common, and that they were not without their utility, in an age when the licentiousness and oppression of the great and powerful often set at defiance the ordinary restraints of law.
In contemplating such a character as that of Knox, it is not the man so much as the reformer, that ought to engage our attention. The talents which are suited to one age and station would be altogether unsuitable to another; and the wisdom displayed by Providence, in raising up persons endowed with qualities singularly adapted to the work which they have to perform for the benefit of mankind, demands our particular consideration. We must admire the austere and rough reformer, whose voice once cried in the wilderness, who was clothed with camel’s hair, and girt about the loins with a leathern girdle, who came neither eating nor drinking, but, laying the axe to the root of every tree, warned a generation of vipers to flee from the wrath to come, saying even to the tyrant upon the throne, “It is not lawful for thee.” And we must consider him as fitted for “serving the will of God in his generation,” according to his rank and place, well as his Divine Master, whose advent he announced, who “did not strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets, nor break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax.” To those who complain that they are disappointed at not finding in our national reformer, courteous manners, and a winning address, we may say, in the language of our Lord to the Jews concerning the Baptist, “What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? What went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Be they which are gorgeously appareled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” To the men of this generation, as well as to the Jews of old, may be applied the parable of the children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, saying, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not wept.”
Disaffection to the work often lurks under cavils against the instruments by which it is carried on, and had Knox been softer and more yielding in his temper, he would have been pronounced unfit for his office by the very persons who now censure his harshness and severity. “But wisdom is justified of all her children.” Before the Reformation, superstition, shielded by ignorance, and armed with power, governed with gigantic sway. Men of mild spirits, and of gentle manners, would have been as unfit for taking the field against this enemy, as a dwarf or a child for encountering a giant. What did Erasmus in the days of Luther? What would Lowth have done in the days of Wickliffe, or Blair in those of Knox? It has been justly observed concerning our reformer that “those very qualities which now render his character less amiable, fitted him to be the instrument of Providence for advancing the Reformation among a fierce people, and enabled him to face danger, and surmount opposition, from which a person of a more gentle spirit would have been apt to shrink back.” Viewing his character in this light, those who cannot regard him as an amiable man, may, without hesitation, pronounce hint a great reformer.
The most disinterested of the nobility, who were embarked with him in the same cause, sacrificed on some occasions the public good to their private interests, and disappointed the hopes which he had formed of them. The most upright of his associates in the ministry relaxed their exertions, or suffered themselves at times to be drawn into measures that were unsuitable to their station and hurtful to the reformed religion. Goodman, after being adopted by the Church of Scotland, and ranked among her reformers, yielded so far to the love of country as to desert a people who were warmly attached to him, and return to the bosom of a less pure Church, which received him with coldness and distrust. Willock, after acquitting himself honorably from the commencement of the interesting conflict, withdrew before the victory was completely secured, and, wearied out with the successive troubles in which his native country was involved, sought a retreat for himself in England. Craig, being left without the assistance of his colleague, and placed between two conflicting parties, betrayed his fears by having recourse to temporizing measures. Douglas, in his old age, became the dupe of persons whose rapacity impoverished the Protestant Church. And each of the superintendents was, at one time or another, complained of for neglect or for partiality, in the discharge of his functions. But from the time that the standard of truth was first raised by him in his native country, till it dropped from his hands at death, Knox never shrunk from danger, never consulted his own ease or advantage, never entered into any compromise with the enemy, never was bribed or frightened into cowardly silence, but, keeping his eye singly and steadily fixed on the advancement of religion and of liberty, supported throughout the character of the reformer of Scotland.
Knox bore a striking resemblance to Luther in personal intrepidity and in popular eloquence. He approached nearest to Calvin in his religious sentiments, in the severity of his manners, and in a certain impressive air of melancholy which pervaded his character. And he resembled Zwingli in his ardent attachment to the principles of civil liberty, and in combining his exertions for the reformation of the Church with uniform endeavors to improve the political state of the people. Not that I would place our reformer on a level with this illustrious triumvirate. There is a splendor which surrounds the great German reformer, partly arising from the intrinsic heroism of his character, and partly reflected from the interesting situation in which his long and doubtful struggle with the court of Rome placed him in the eyes of Europe, which removes him at a distance from all who started in the same glorious career. The Genevese reformer surpassed Knox in the extent of his theological learning, and in the unrivalled solidity and clearness of his judgment. And the reformer of Switzerland, though inferior to him in masculine elocution, and in daring courage, excelled him in self-command, in prudence, and in that species of eloquence which steals into the heart, convinces without irritating, and governs without assuming the tone of authority. But although “he attained not to the first three,” I know not, among all the eminent men who appeared at that period, any name which is so well entitled to be placed next to theirs as that of Knox, whether we consider the talents with which he was endowed, or the important services which he performed.
There are perhaps few who have attended to the active and laborious exertions of our Reformer, who have not been insensibly led to form the opinion that he was of a robust constitution. This is, however, a mistake. He was of small stature, and of a weakly habit of body, a circumstance which serves to give us a higher idea of the vigor of his mind. His portrait seems to have been taken more than once during his life, and has been frequently engraved. It continues still to frown in the antechamber of Queen Mary, to whom he was often an ungracious visitor. We discern in it the traits of his characteristic intrepidity, austerity, and keen penetration. Nor can we overlook his beard, which, according to the custom of the times, he wore long, and reaching to his middle, a circumstance which I mention the rather because some writers have gravely assured us that it was the chief thing which procured him reverence among his countrymen. A Popish author has informed us that he was gratified with having his picture drawn, and has expressed much horror at this, seeing he had caused all the images of the saints to be broken.
One charge against him has not yet been noticed. He has been accused of setting up himself for a prophet, of presuming to intrude into the secret counsel of God, and of enthusiastically confounding the suggestions of his own imagination, and the effusions of his own spirit, with the dictates of inspiration, and immediate communications from Heaven. Let us examine this accusation a little. It is proper, in the first place, to hear his own statement of the grounds on which he proceeded in many of those warnings which have been denominated predictions. Having, in one of his treatises, denounced the judgments to which the inhabitants of England exposed themselves, by renouncing the gospel, and returning to idolatry, he gives the following explication of the warrant which he had for his threatenings: “Ye would know the groundis of my certitude. God grant that, hearing thame, ye may understand, and steadfastlie believe the same. My assurances are not the mervalles of Merlin, nor yit the dark sentences of prophane prophesies; but the plane treuth of Godis word, the invincibill justice of the everlasting God, and the ordinarie course of his punismentis and plagis frome the beginning, are my assurance and groundis. Godis word threatneth destructioun to all inobedient; his immutabill justice must requyre the same; the ordinarie punishments and plaguis schaw exempillis. What man then can ceise to prophesie?” We find him expressing himself in a similar way, in his defense of the threatenings which he uttered against those who had been guilty of the murder of King Henry and the Regent Murray. He denies that he had spoken “as one that entered into the secret counsel of God,” and insists that he had merely declared the judgment which was pronounced in the divine law against murderers, and which had often been exemplified in the vengeance which overtook them, even in this life. In so far then his threatenings, or predictions (for so he repeatedly calls them), do not stand in need of an apology. Though sometimes expressed in absolute or indefinite language, it is but fair and reasonable to understand them, like similar declarations in Scripture, as implying a tacit condition.
There are, however, several of his sayings which, perhaps, cannot be vindicated upon these principles, and which he himself seems to have rested upon different grounds. Of this kind are the assurances which he expressed, from the beginning of the Scottish troubles, that the cause of the Congregation would ultimately prevail; his confident hope of again preaching in his native country and at St. Andrews, avowed by him during his imprisonment on board the French galleys, and frequently repeated during his exile; with the intimations which he gave respecting the death of Thomas Maitland and Kircaldy of Grange. It cannot be denied that his contemporaries considered these as proceeding from a prophetic spirit, and have attested that they received an exact accomplishment. Without entering on a particular examination of these instances, or venturing to give a decisive opinion respecting any of them, I shall confine myself to a few general observations.
The most easy way of getting rid of this delicate subject is to dismiss it at once, and summarily to pronounce that all pretensions to extraordinary premonitions, since the completing of the canon of inspiration, are unwarranted, and that they ought, without examination, to be discarded, and treated as fanciful and visionary. Nor would this fix any peculiar imputation on the character or talents of our reformer, when it is considered that the most learned persons of that age were under the influence of a still greater weakness, and strongly addicted to the belief of judicial astrology. But I doubt much if this method of determining the question would be doing justice to the subject. Est vericulum, ne, aut neglectis his impia, fraude, aut susceptis anili superstitione, obligenaur. On the one hand, the disposition which mankind discover to pry into the secrets of futurity, has been always accompanied with much credulity and superstition, and it cannot be denied that the age in which Knox lived was prone to credit the marvelous, especially as to the infliction of divine judgments on individuals. A judicious person who is aware of this will not be disposed to acknowledge as preternatural whatever was formerly regarded in this light, and will be on his guard against the illusions of imagination as to impressions which may be made on his own mind.
Nor would it be difficult to produce instances in which writers of a subsequent age, through mistake, or under the influence of prepossession, have given a prophetical meaning to words, which originally were not intended to convey any such idea. But, on the other hand, is there not a danger of running into skepticism, and of laying down general principles which may lead us obstinately to contest the truth of the best authenticated facts, if not also to limit the operations of Divine Providence? This is the extreme to which the present age inclines. That there are instances of persons having had presentiments as to events which afterwards did happen to themselves and others, there is, I think, the best reason to believe. Those who laugh at vulgar credulity, and exert their ingenuity in accounting for such phenomena on ordinary principles, have been exceedingly puzzled with some of these facts—a great deal more puzzled than they have confessed—and the solutions which they have given are, in some cases, as mysterious as anything included in the intervention of superior spirits, or in preternatural and divine intimations. The canon of our faith, as Christians, is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; we must not look to impressions or new revelations as the rule of our duty, but that God may, on particular occasions, forewarn persons of some things which shall happen, to testify his approbation of them, to encourage them to confide in him in circumstances of peculiar difficulty, or to serve other important purposes, is not, I think, inconsistent with the principles of either natural or revealed religion. If to believe this be enthusiasm, it is an enthusiasm into which some of the most enlightened and sober men, in modern as well as ancient times, have fallen. The reformers were men of singular piety; they were exposed to uncommon opposition, and had uncommon services to perform; they were endued with extraordinary gifts, and why may we not suppose that they were occasionally favored with extraordinary premonitions, with respect to certain events which concerned themselves, other individuals, or the Church in general? But whatever intimations of this kind they received, they never proposed them as a rule of action to themselves or others, nor rested the authority of their mission upon these, nor appealed to them as constituting any part of the evidence of those doctrines which they preached to the world.
Our Reformer left behind him a widow and five children. His two sons were born to him by his first wife, Marjory Bowes. We have already seen, that, about the year 1566, they went to England, where their mother’s relations resided. They received their education at St. John’s college, in the university of Cambridge, their names being enrolled in the matriculation book only eight days after the death of their father. Nathanael, the eldest of them, after obtaining the degrees of bachelor and master of arts, and being admitted fellow of the college, died in 1580. Eleazer, the youngest son, in addition to the honors attained by his brother, was created bachelor of divinity, ordained one of the preachers of the university, and admitted to the vicarage of Clacton-Magna. He died in 1591 and was buried in the chapel of St. John’s college. It appears that both sons died without issue, and the family of the Reformer became extinct in the male line. His other children were daughters by his second wife. The General Assembly testified their respect for his memory by assigning his stipend, for the year after his death, to his widow and three daughters, and this appears to have been continued for some time by the regent Morton, who, though charged with avarice during his administration, treated them with uniform attention and kindness. Margaret Stewart, his widow, was afterwards married to Sir Andrew Ker of Fadounside, a strenuous supporter of the Reformation. The names of his daughters were Martha, Margaret, and Elizabeth. The first was married to James Fleming, a minister of the Church of Scotland; the second, to Zachary, son of the celebrated Robert Pont; and the third to John Welch, minister of Ayr.
Mrs. Welch seems to have inherited no inconsiderable portion of her father’s spirit, and she had her share of similar hardships. Her husband was one of those patriotic ministers who resisted the arbitrary measures pursued by James VI for overturning the government and liberties of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Being determined to abolish the General Assembly, James had, for a considerable time, prevented the meetings of that court by successive prorogations. Perceiving the design of the court, a number of the delegates from synods resolved to keep the diet which had been appointed to be held at Aberdeen in July 1605. They merely constituted the Assembly, and appointed a day for its next meeting, and being charged by Laurieston, the king’s commissioner, to dissolve, immediately obeyed; but the commissioner, having ante-dated the charge, several of the leading members were thrown into prison. Welch and five of his brethren, when called before the privy council, declined that court, as incompetent to judge the offense of which they were accused, according to the laws of the kingdom, on which account they were indicted to stand trial for treason at Linlithgow. Their trial was conducted in the most illegal and unjust manner. The king’s advocate told the jury that the only thing which came under their cognizance was the fact of the declinature, the judges having already found that it was treasonable, and threatened them with an “assize of error,” if they did not proceed as he directed them. After the jury were empanelled, the justice-clerk went in and threatened them with his majesty’s displeasure, if they acquitted the prisoners. The greater part of the jurors being still reluctant, the chancellor went out and consulted with the other judges, who promised that no punishment should be inflicted on the prisoners, provided the jury brought in a verdict agreeable to the court. By such disgraceful methods, they were induced, at midnight, to find, by a majority of three, that the prisoners were guilty, upon which they were condemned to suffer the death of traitors.
Leaving her children at Ayr, Mrs. Welch attended her husband in prison, and was present at Linlithgow, with the wives of the other prisoners, on the day of trial. When informed of the sentence, these heroines, instead of lamenting their fate, praised God who had given their husbands courage to stand to the cause of their Master, adding, that, like him, they had been judged and condemned under the covert of night.
The sentence of death having been changed into banishment, she accompanied her husband to France, where they remained for sixteen years. Mr. Welch applied himself with such assiduity to the acquisition of the language of the country, that he was able, in the course of fourteen weeks, to preach in French, and was chosen minister to a Protestant congregation at Nerac, from which he was translated to St. Jean d’Angely, a fortified town in Lower Charente. War having broken out between Louis XIII and his Protestant subjects, St. Jean d’Angely was besieged by the king in person. On this occasion, Welch not only animated the inhabitants of the town to a vigorous resistance by his exhortations, but he appeared on the walls, and gave his assistance to the garrison. The king was at last admitted into the town in consequence of a treaty, and being displeased that Welch preached during his residence in it, sent the Duke d’Espernon with a company of soldiers to take him from the pulpit. When the preacher saw the duke enter the church, he ordered his hearers to make room for the marshal of France, and desired him to sit down and hear the word of God. He spoke with such an air of authority that the duke involuntarily took a seat, and listened to the sermon with great gravity and attention. He then brought Welch to the king, who asked him how he durst preach there, since it was contrary to the laws of the kingdom for any of the pretended reformed to officiate in places where the court resided. “Sir,” replied Welch, “if your majesty knew what I preached, you would not only come and hear it yourself, but make all France hear it, for I preach not as those men you use to hear. First, I preach that you must be saved by the merits of Jesus Christ, and not your own, and I am sure your conscience tells you that your good works will never merit heaven. Next, I preach, that, as you are king of France, there is no man on earth above you, but these men whom you hear, subject you to the pope of Rome, which I will never do.” Pleased with this reply, Louis said to him, “Hé bien, vous serez mon ministre” [Very well, you shall be my minister], and addressing him by the title of Father, assured him of his protection. And he was as good as his word, for St. Jean d’Angely, being reduced by the royal forces in 1621, the king gave directions to De Vitry, one of his generals, to take care of his minister, in consequence of which, Welch and his family were conveyed, at his majesty’s expense, to Rochelle.
Having lost his health, and the physicians informing him that the only prospect which he had of recovering it was by returning to his native country, Mr. Welch ventured, in the year 1622, to come to London. But his own sovereign was incapable of treating him with that generosity which he had experienced from the French monarch, and, dreading the influence of a man who was far gone with a consumption, he absolutely refused to give him permission to return to Scotland. Mrs. Welch, by means of some of her mother’s relations at court, obtained access to James, and petitioned him to grant this liberty to her husband. The following singular conversation took place on that occasion. His majesty asked her who was her father. She replied, “John Knox.” “Knox and Welch!” exclaimed he, “the devil never made such a match as that.” “It’s right like sir,” said she, “for we never speired [asked] his advice.” He asked her how many children her father had left, and if they were lads or lasses. She said three, and they were all lasses. “God be thanked!” cried the king, lifting up both his hands, “for an they had been three lads, I had never bruiked [enjoyed] my three kingdoms in peace.” She again urged her request that he would give her husband his native air. “Give him his native air!” replied the king, “give him the devil!” “Give that to your hungry courtiers,” said she, offended at his profaneness. He told her at last that if she would persuade her husband to submit to the bishops, he would allow him to return to Scotland. Mrs. Welch, lifting up her apron, and holding it towards the king, replied, in the true spirit of her father, “Please your majesty, I’d rather kep [receive] his head there.”
Welch was soon after released from the power of the despot and from his own sufferings. “This month of May 1622,” says one of his intimate friends, “we received intelligence of the death of that holy servant of God, Mr. Welch, one of the fathers and pillars of that church, and the light of his age, who died at London, an exile from his native country, on account of his opposition to the re-establishment of episcopal government, and his firm support of the presbyterian and synodical discipline, received and established among us, and that after eighteen years’ banishment, a man full of the Holy Spirit, zeal, charity, and incredible diligence in the duties of his office.” The death of his wife is recorded by the same pen. “This month of January 1625, died at Ayr, my cousin, Mrs. Welch, daughter of that great servant of God, the late John Knox, and wife of that holy man of God, Mr. Welch, above mentioned, a spouse and daughter worthy of such a husband, and such a father.”
The account of our Reformer’s publications has been partly anticipated in the course of the preceding narrative. Though his writings were of great utility, it was not by them, but by his personal exertions, that he chiefly advanced the Reformation, and transmitted his name to posterity. He did not view this as the field in which he was called to labor. “That I did not in writing communicate my judgment upon the Scriptures,” says he, “I have ever thought myself to have most just reason. For, considering myself rather called of my God to instruct the ignorant, comfort the sorrowful, confirm the weak, and rebuke the proud, by tongue and lively voice, in these most corrupt days, than to compose books for the age to come (seeing that so much is written, and by men of most singular erudition, and yet so little well observed), I decreed to contain myself within the bounds of that vocation whereunto I found myself especially called.” This resolution was most judiciously formed. His situation was very different from that of the first Protestant reformers. They found the whole world in ignorance of the doctrines of Christianity. Men were either destitute of books, or such as they possessed were calculated only to mislead. The oral instructions of a few individuals could extend but a small way; it was principally by means of their writings, which circulated with amazing rapidity, that they benefited mankind, and became not merely the instructors of the particular cities and countries where they resided and preached, but the reformers of Europe. By the time that Knox appeared on the field, their translations of Scripture, their judicious commentaries on its different books, and their able defenses of its doctrines, were laid open to the English reader. What was more immediately required of him was to use the peculiar talent in which he excelled, and, “by tongue and lively voice,” to imprint the doctrines of the Bible upon the hearts of his countrymen. When he was deprived of an opportunity of doing this during his exile, there could not be a more proper substitute than that which he adopted, by publishing familiar epistles, exhortations, and admonitions, in which he briefly reminded them of the truths which they had embraced, and warned them to flee from the abominations of Popery. These could be circulated and read with far more ease, and to a far greater extent, than large treatises.
Of the many sermons preached by him during his ministry, be published but one, which was extorted from him by peculiar circumstances. It affords a very favorable specimen of his talents, and shows that, if he had applied himself to writing, he was qualified for excelling in that department. He had a ready command of language, and expressed himself with great perspicuity, animation, and force. Though he despised the tinsel of rhetoric, he was acquainted with the principles of that art, and when he had leisure and inclination to polish his style, wrote with propriety, and even with elegance. Those who have read his Letter to the Queen Regent, his Answer to Tyne, or his papers in the account of the dispute with Kennedy, will be satisfied of this. During his residence in England, he acquired the habit of writing the language according to the manner of that country, and in all his publications which appeared during his lifetime, the English and not the Scottish orthography and mode of expression are used. In this respect, there is a very evident difference between them and the vernacular writings of Buchanan.
His practical treatises are among the least known, but most valuable, of his writings. In depth of religious feeling, and in power of utterance, they are superior to any works of the same kind which appeared in that age. The thoughts are often original, and always expressed in a style of originality, possessing great dignity and strength, without affectation or extravagance.
The freedoms which have been used in the republication of such of his works as are best known, have contributed to injure his literary reputation. They were translated into the language commonly used in the middle of the seventeenth century, by which they were deprived of the antique costume which they formerly wore, and contracted an air of vulgarity which did not originally belong to them. Besides this, they have been reprinted with innumerable omissions, interpolations, and alterations, which frequently affect the sense, and always enfeeble the language. The two works which have been most read are the least accurate and polished, in point of style, of all his writings. His tract against female government was hastily published by him, under great irritation of mind at the increasing cruelty of Mary, Queen of England. His History of the Reformation was undertaken during the confusions of the civil war, and was afterwards continued by him at intervals snatched from numerous avocations. The collection of historical materials is a work of labor and time; the digesting and arranging of them into a regular narrative require much leisure and undivided attention. The want of these sufficiently accounts for the confusion that is often observable in that work. But, notwithstanding this, and particular mistakes from which no work of the kind can be free, it still continues to be the principal source of information as to ecclesiastical proceedings in that period; and although great keenness has been shown in attacking its authenticity and accuracy, it has been confirmed, in all the leading facts, by an examination of those ancient documents which the industry of later times has brought to light.
His defense of Predestination, the only theological treatise of any extent which was published by him, is rare, and has been seen by few. It is written with perspicuity, and discovers his controversial acuteness, with becoming caution, in handling that delicate question. A catalogue of his publications, as complete as I have been able to draw up, will be found in the notes.
I have thus attempted to give an account of our national Reformer, of the principal events of his life, his sentiments, writing, and exertions in the cause of religion and liberty. If what I have done shall contribute to set his character in a more just light than that in which it has been generally represented, and to correct the erroneous views of it which have long been prevalent; or if it shall tend to elucidate the ecclesiastical history of the eventful period in which he lived, and be the means of illustrating the superintendence of a wise and merciful Providence, in the accomplishment of a revolution of all others the most interesting and beneficial to this country, I shall not think any labor which I have bestowed on the subject to have been thrown away, or unrewarded.